How Medicare is improving coordination of your care
April 16, 2013
If two mechanics are working on your car, but they're not talking to one another, the results may not be so good.
Likewise, if a baseball coach doesn't communicate well with his players, he's not likely to win as many games as he could.
Good coordination can improve outcomes in all sorts of human activities. Health care is no exception.
That's why Medicare places so much emphasis on getting doctors and other health care providers to work together more closely and to share information on their patients.
For one thing, Medicare is encouraging the formation of accountable care organizations, or ACOs.
An ACO is a group of doctors and other health care providers who agree to work together and with Medicare to give you the best possible care by making sure they have the most up‑to‑date information about you. ACOs are designed to help your providers work together more closely to give you a more coordinated and patient-centered experience.
If you have Original Medicare and your doctor has decided to participate in an ACO, you'll be notified of that, either in person or by letter, and the ACO may request your personal health information to better coordinate your care. You'll have the option of declining to have your Medicare claims information shared with the ACO.
Your Medicare benefits, services, and protections won't change. And you still have the right to use any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare at any time, just as you do now.
For more information, visit http://www.medicare.gov/acos.html or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1‑877‑486‑2048.
Medicare also gives financial incentives to doctors and other providers who adopt health information technology. Health IT can help manage your health information, improve how you communicate with your health care providers, and improve the quality and coordination of your care.
These tools also reduce paperwork, medical errors, and health care costs.
One example is electronic health records, or EHRs. These are records that your doctor, other health care provider, medical office staff, or a hospital keeps on a computer about your medical care or treatments.
EHRs can help lower the chances of medical errors, eliminate duplicate tests, and may improve your overall quality of care.
Your doctor's EHR may be able to link to a hospital, lab, pharmacy, or other doctors, so the people who care for you can have a more complete picture of your health. You have the right to get a copy of your health information for your own personal use and to make sure the information is complete and accurate.
Electronic prescribing is another way to coordinate and improve care delivery. It allows your doctor (or other health care provider who is legally allowed to write prescriptions) to send your prescriptions directly to your pharmacy.
Electronic prescribing can save you money, time, and help keep you safe. You don't have to drop off and wait for your prescription. And your prescription may be ready when you arrive.
Prescribers can check which drugs your insurance covers and may be able to prescribe a drug that costs you less.
Electronic prescriptions are easier for the pharmacist to read than handwritten prescriptions. This means there's less chance that you'll get the wrong drug or dose.
And prescribers can be alerted to potential drug interactions, allergies, and other warnings.
David Sayen is Medicare's regional administrator for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).