Can we lower medical costs by giving the neediest patients better care?

For a thirty-year-old with a fever, a twenty-minute visit to the doctor’s office may be just the thing. For a pedestrian hit by a minivan, there’s nowhere better than an emergency room. But these institutions are vastly inadequate for people with complex problems: the forty-year-old with drug and alcohol addiction; the eighty-four-year-old with advanced Alzheimer’s disease and a pneumonia; the sixty-year-old with heart failure, obesity, gout, a bad memory for his eleven medications, and half a dozen specialists recommending different tests and procedures. It’s like arriving at a major construction project with nothing but a screwdriver and a crane.

The law authorizes new forms of Medicare and Medicaid payment to encourage the development of “medical homes” and “accountable care organizations”—doctors’ offices and medical systems that get financial benefits for being more accessible to patients, better organized, and accountable for reducing the over-all costs of care.

The Hot Spotters http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/01/24/the-hot-spotters via @atul_gawande

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