LA doctors taking team approach to new health care model

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Some primary care doctors are promoting a team approach to help maintain healthy patients and lower medical costs.

Think of it as good old-fashioned doctoring with an added dimension-- dubbed the patient centered medical home.

“Patient Centered Medical Home is not a place. It’s a system of care,” said Paul Gregerson, who runs the nonprofit John Wesley Community Health Institute. It has six clinics in Los Angeles County, including on in LA's Skid Row.

He’s helping to spread the word about team coverage for patients: a primary care doctor, nurses, social workers, physical therapists and others who work together.

"Studies have already shown — and I can show you studies in my clinics that indicate — health outcomes are better when you have additional services like clinical pharmacy, like a chronic disease team, when you track patients throughout the system," he said.

The federal health care reform law offers incentives for using this model. L.A. County has launched a two-year pilot project to run a handful of clinics this way.

Dr. Sarita Mohanty is medical director of LA Care, one of the country’s largest public health plans. "We’re talking about developing care teams," she said. "Focused on not just the physician meeting with the patient but also having a nurse, having a pharmacist, having a physical therapist, social worker as needed. And working as a team rather than individual units. And using information technology to make the care more efficient, more effective."

Dr. Mohanty says patients get better preventive care so they end up in the emergency room less. She says that brings down medical costs.