Adler-Milstein receives funding to study strategies to improve primary care for patients

Julia Adler-Milstein

UMSI Assistant Professor Julia Adler-Milstein has received a $344,298 grant from The Commonwealth Fund to support her two-year study of strategies and techniques that can improve primary care performance for high-cost, high-need patients.

With co-investigator Christy Harris Lemak, an associate professor in the U-M School of Public Health, Adler-Milstein will conduct an in-depth examination of the strategies used by outpatient primary care practices to effectively manage patients, and the impact of motivation, learning, and resources on these approaches. 

Throughout the health care industry, new efforts are being developed to improve care and access, enhance coordination, and lower costs for patients with the greatest needs. Populations with complex conditions, chronic illnesses, and mental health disorders use a disproportionate share of health services and the nature of their care presents many opportunities for increased efficiency, cost savings, and quality improvement. 

Improving primary care can help these patient populations manage chronic conditions and avoid unnecessary, expensive care in hospitals and emergency rooms. Many health care providers and researchers now believe that incentives can improve primary care management but have yet to identify the most effective ways of implementing and operating such programs.

Adler-Milstein and Lemak will seek to gain insight into specific tactics that best meet the needs of complex patients by first identifying the practices whose management of these patients improved while participating in the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Physician Group Incentive Program (PGIP). 

Established in 2005, PGIP is an incentive program that utilizes a wide variety of initiatives to encourage practice improvement by rewarding organizations and physicians for enhanced performance and value of health care delivered.

The study will incorporate double-blind case studies in selected improving- and non-improving practices and analyze how practices were able to improve care and value for complex patients. By focusing on the mechanisms that drive performance improvement, the results of this study will offer evidence to better inform policy makers, payers and practices in ongoing efforts to align payment and deliver better care in the U.S. health care system.  

The study, titled "Understanding What Works: Improving Primary Care Physicians’ Performance for High-Cost, High-Need Patients," will receive $344,298 from The Commonwealth Fund over the course of the project period, which runs through June 30, 2016. 

The Commonwealth Fund is a national, private foundation based in New York City that supports independent research on health care issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy.

Posted on July 10, 2014