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How a Small Oklahoma Town Reduced Costs Through Patient Literacy

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 16, 2009

Now the nearby hospital, Duncan Regional, is looking at partnering with MedEncentive as well for its 500 employees.

Six other companies, in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Washington, have installed the system as well, expanding the "MedEncentive solution" from Duncan's 600 enrollees to 7,000 nationally.

How did they do it? Hard to tell.

Shaw thinks it's because patients are managing their chronic conditions better, and thus aren't hospitalized as much. "Patients are continuing to go to the doctor, but now, they look at their healthcare and they are asking 'is the test I want to get really necessary?'"

MedEncentive's Green points to a report by the Rand Corp. which found that physicians practice evidence-based guidelines only 55% of the time. That variation must mean that many patients aren't getting care that is known to work most of the time.

"Doctors get stuck in their ways, medicine advances, and they don't keep up. They're in a hurry. Often they don't pay enough attention on what they need to do," Greene says. With the MedEncentive program, there's only been a 1.3% deviation from evidence-based guidelines, he says.

Stewart isn't sure why the program seems to be working, but he agrees that it is. "Major [health] events still occur," Stewart says. "But I think patients do take better care of themselves when they're better educated. It's made patients more aware of the importance of their insurance and medical costs."

And they are less likely to choose more expensive options when they're knowledgeable about what the guidelines recommend, he says.

In its recently-released five-year report of the Duncan experience, MedEncentive noted the system "offers great hope for improving healthcare quality, while at the same time empowering and motivating people to be healthier, all of which will lead to more affordable healthcare."


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Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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