EMHS joins Medicare experiment to improve care

Posted Dec. 19, 2011, at 5:40 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Medicare says it’s launching a national experiment to improve care for seniors, and hopefully save taxpayers money as well.

Officials announced Monday that 32 networks of doctors and hospitals around the country, including Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, are becoming Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs.

Behind the acronym is a coordinated approach to medicine so that risks like high blood pressure and elevated blood sugars are managed better and patients get help leading a more healthful lifestyle.

The networks will be eligible for financial rewards if they improve care and lower costs.

About 860,000 of Medicare’s 47 million beneficiaries will be involved in the test. They’ll still be free to go to any doctor.

Approximately 8,000 people in the EMHS system will be included in the effort, initially Medicare patients who see primary care providers affiliated with Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, and Inland Hospital in Waterville, according to a release from EMHS.

“I hope [patients] see much less fragmentation in care and much more organization and coordination around their specific needs,” said M. Michelle Hood, president and CEO of EMHS.

More than 60 percent of the system’s revenue comes from Medicare and MaineCare.

Officials hope the test will lead to a new model for all of Medicare.

BDN health editor Jackie Farwell contributed to this report.

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