Grant Will Help Health Researchers Study Patient-Centered Programs

Posted: July 17, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: July 22, 2013 at 6:55 am

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By Michele McDonald

Jack Hadley. Creative Services photo

Jack Hadley. Creative Services photo

Does having one primary care doctor coordinating health care follow-ups, prescriptions and the like help cancer survivors live a healthier and longer life? George Mason University researchers are going to find out, thanks to a three-year, $717,000 project funded this month by the American Cancer Society.

Jack Hadley, associate dean of finance and planning and senior health resources researcher for the College of Health and Human Services, is the lead investigator on the grant for “Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Care of Cancer Survivors.”

Health care providers and insurers are turning to patient-centered medical homes as a way to provide better care and contain costs.

“The practitioner would work with patients to review their health status and treatment of their condition,” Hadley says. If a patient needs treatment from another specialty, then the primary care physician would coordinate care. “The primary care practitioner would be the point of first contact, rather than having a patient try to find a new doctor.”

This is the second major grant in four months that George Mason has won to study patient-centered programs; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield awarded Mason with a five-year, $5.4 million contract in March to evaluate the insurer’s medical home approach.

While patient-centered medical homes are garnering attention for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease care, the role they can play in cancer care has been left out, and it could be a crucial one, Hadley says. Effective cancer treatments mean that patients are living with cancer as they would with any other chronic disease.

And that’s where primary care physicians offer valuable guidance. They can track how cancer drugs interact with a patient’s other prescriptions, follow up on cancer guidelines for care and work with a patient’s oncologist.

Patient-centered programs could play a role in decreasing or preventing relapses, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, Hadley says.

Hadley and his team will query 1,600 primary care practitioners. Half will be physician’s offices that are accredited patient-centered medical homes, while the other half will be standard primary care offices. All will have prostate, breast or colorectal cancer survivors as patients, although the specific cancer isn’t part of the study.

The increased focus on patient-centered care may mean creating a new type of health care professional, a field especially appropriate for Mason’s College of Health and Human Services, which has a School of Nursing and a Department of Social Work, Hadley says.

“The next generation of health professionals will need to take a broader view of the care process,” he says. “It will be less the nurse at the bedside and the social worker one-on-one with a client. It will be the nurse coordinating care across disciplines and the social worker helping cancer survivors navigate rehabilitation and other medical issues.”

Write to Michele McDonald at mmcdon15@gmu.edu

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