PBS Affiliate Features SCPA Program

13 Mar 2014

The South Central Pennsylvania alliance and its Patient Partners program were featured on a HEALTHSMART episode on the Chronically Ill.  HEALTHSMART is produced by WITF, the central Pennsylvania PBS affiliate.

It is estimated 133 million Americans currently suffer from one chronic disease.  Approximately half have multiple chronic diseases.  Chronic diseases – long term conditions which can be controlled but not cured – account for 7 of 10 deaths in America.  They are considered the leading health concern of our nation encompassing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

Chronic diseases also have a large financial impact.  Of the $2 trillion spent on medical care in the United States, 75% is spent on chronic diseases.  Sufferers of chronic disease are the most frequent users of health care, accounting for 81% of all hospital admissions, 91% of all prescriptions filled and 76% of all physician visits.  They also have a higher out of pocket cost – almost five times that of a person who does not have a chronic disease.

With the Patient Partners program, one or two patients are chosen to take a behind the scenes look at the health care practice, attend meetings and give feedback to the doctors.  Gwendolyn Moore Ruffin of York, Pennsylvania is one of those patients. 

“I feel like I’m a liaison between the patient and the doctor in telling the doctor what patients expect when they come in for their visit and what they would like to hear,” says Ruffin.  Additionally, as an individual with multiple chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes and arthritis, Ruffin feels being a Patient Partner has caused her to take a more active role in her health.

Ruffin’s doctor, Dr. Mark Goedecker, works at a practice which has moved to a patient-centered medical home model of care.  The PCMH model gives the patient and the doctor support in the form of a care team.  This also works to reduce fragmented care by ensuring Dr. Goedecker is aware should Ruffin visit a specialist or the emergency department.  According to Dr. Goedecker, it is easy to forget that the patient is the most important part when you are very busy.  The PCMH model puts the patient at the center and ensures the patient’s needs are being met.

“When we were trained in medical school and residency, it was ‘you’re the person that’s ultimately responsible for that patient’ which is true.  But medicine is a team sport.  It is no longer an individual game that we have to play that the provider takes care of everything,” says Goedecker.

Kathy Hutcheson, the consumer engagement coordinator for the South Central Pennsylvania alliance, believes the patient focus is the key to addressing the growing problem of chronic diseases.  “The funny thing about healthcare is we don’t really and haven’t really seen patients as customers.  And they don’t really see themselves as customers either… Chronic disease is very lifestyle related so you have to become more focused on patients and what their needs are so that you can make inroads into chronic disease.”