Researchers at Michigan State University will evaluate the effectiveness of different medical home initiatives from two insurance companies, under a $1.2 million federal grant.

The funds come from the $1.1 billion appropriated in the HITECH Act to conduct "comparative effectiveness" research to develop and disseminate best practices and evidence-based treatment guidelines.

Under the medical home model, primary care practices are designated patients' "medical home" to coordinate the continuum of care. The practices are redesigned to be more functional and workflow-friendly, and new processes are developed to focus on quality, safety and alternative reimbursement methods. The care model also calls for extensive use of health information technologies, including electronic health records, e-prescribing, clinical decision support, secure messaging and Web portal software.

At Michigan State, researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of medical home pilot programs of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Priority Health and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Independent Health. Both plans are community-based and started their pilots in 2009 with common data elements, but the plans have different payment methodologies.

Priority Health implemented payment reforms to encourage practice transformation and improved access for primary care patients. The plan also offered grants for practices to contract some consulting services.

Independent Health provided monthly prospective payments to support practices' implementation of specific structures and processes, and offered internal experts to assist practices in plan development. The insurer also provides retrospective payments for achievement of certain quality measures.

Under the three-year grant, researchers at MSU's Primary Care Research and Evaluation Program will analyze claims data from the pilot projects from 2009 through 2011.

--Joseph Goedert


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