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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

Ohio Senate OKs pilot program to streamline health care

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Senate yesterday unanimously approved a pilot program for making primary health care more efficient and potentially more affordable.

The measure, bearing the names of Rep. Peggy Lehner (D., Kettering) and former Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), originally started as an experiment focusing on the Toledo and Dayton areas. It has since expanded to include northeast and southern Ohio.

The bill returns to the House today for approval of changes made by the upper chamber.

"In some ways it's a throwback and in other ways a leap forward," said Mr. Ujvagi, who is now Lucas County administrator. "It's a throwback in that we'll have a family physician be the person involved with a family's health care to coordinate specialty care and wellness care. It's like the old family doctor who knew all about you."

"It's a leap forward in that there's a mandate for new technology so that every time you go to a doctor you don't have to repeat your health-care history and carry prescriptions in a bag ad infinitum," he said.

The bill would bring to Ohio a Patient Centered Medical Home Education pro-

gram that has been found to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits in some other states. A new advisory group would provide training to up to 40 local medical practices - 10 from each quadrant of the state - and at least four advanced-nursing practices.

The idea is to streamline care with patients having all of their health-care needs addressed in one place. Physicians potentially could focus on more serious ailments while nurses treat conditions such as sore throats and monitor changes to deal with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

"It's a team approach to medicine," Ms. Lehner said. "In primary care practice, physicians are so overworked that he has an average of seven minutes to spend with a patient. Seven minutes is not enough time to deal with a healthy patient in depth. It's really not enough time to deal with a chronically ill patient."

The bill also requires the deans of Ohio's medical schools to propose a primary medical student component to the Ohio First Scholarship Program, which targets the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

The idea is to offer scholarships in exchange for a commitment from medical school graduates to stay in Ohio.



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