I had to put a question mark on the title of this blog entry because I couldn’t tell if this study was actually ridiculous or not. Researchers found that the annual number of primary visits for Medicare patients was inversely proportional to the number of ED visits, hospitalizations, and cost of care. I am simplifying their results a bit but you can read it yourself. It so simple that it makes you want to say “duh”. But it is also pretty profound in its own right. If you get patients over 65, who have the most medical problems in our population, to regularly go to their doctors then they are not clogging up the ED, getting so sick they need to be hospitalized and this all saves tons of money.
Now what kind of medical office could handle seeing Medicare patients regularly? What kind of practice has the time to spend with them? Hmmmm, I wonder? Of course I am talking about Direct Primary Care. For a low monthly fee these people are truly given comprehensive care with the time they need to prevent a lot of problems down the line. Heck, Medicare could be paying this monthly fee and save tons of money for all the taxpayers. Too easy? Yup. Instead, the idiots in charge would make us measure everything with bogus metrics and quality measures making these visits a joke once again. The annual Medicare visit as it is now, in regular offices, doesn’t even require an exam! I just saw a new patient in his late 80s. He had been seeing his doctor for annual visits regularly for years but when I did my full exam I noticed an obvious neck mass. All I had to do was look.
To prove my point, the authors of this study show how to screw a good thing up:
Measuring the temporal regularity of PC visits may be useful for identifying beneficiaries at risk for adverse events, and as a barometer for and an impetus to clinic-level quality improvement.
Swing and a miss. Instead of saying that it is extremely important for Medicare patients to see their primary care doctors regularly they want to create some surveillance program to find those people who are not being seen. I’m sure that won’t cost a lot of money.
Here’s an idea. Let’s Medicare patients a medical credit card that they can use to pay their DPC docs. Don’t do the stupid little metric game but after a year or two compare the ED visits, hospitalizations and cost for those who stayed in the system versus those who had a DPC doc. My money is on the latter.