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St. Johnsbury Medical Offices Way Ahead in Healthcare Reform

March 1, 2011

Healthcare reform has been a hot topic in Vermont and nationally for quite some time.  The discussion on how to improve the healthcare system is loud and sometimes emotional.  In this midst of this debate, medical offices in the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital service area are leading the state and the nation in improving patient care and containing the costs of healthcare.
            In January, the Department of Vermont Health Access released the 2010 Annual Report on the Vermont Blueprint for Health.  As the report states the Vermont Blueprint for Health is “Vermont’s cutting edge health reform program”.  Five primary care offices in the NVRH service area were the first offices chosen as part of a patient-centered medical home pilot in late 2007.  The 2010 Blueprint Annual Report outlines the conclusions of the St. Johnsbury area pilot.  Results include a reduction in avoidable emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and improvements in patient care in primary care offices.
            The report compares data supplied by NVRH, Vermont Medicaid, and the Vermont Healthcare Claims Uniform Reporting and Evaluation System.  The data from all sources shows a favorable reduction in avoidable hospital and emergency room visits.  Similar reductions in hospital and emergency room use were also seen in Burlington Blueprint pilot sites, but were not seen in areas of the state not participating in the Blueprint for Health.   
Paul Bengtson, CEO at NVRH, is very supportive of the Blueprint for Health.  “NVRH is always here when our patients need us, but it is important that patients call their primary care office for non-urgent care, and to get the ongoing care they need from their primary care provider.  We want people to get the right care, at the right time, in the right place”.
The Northern Counties Health Care medical offices of the Danville Health Center, the Concord Health Center, Caledonia Internal Medicine, and St. Johnsbury Family Health Center, and NVRH Corner Medical are recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) as Patient Centered Medical Homes.  The medical home model focuses on prevention and using a Community Health Team to deliver health care, and includes the patient as a key member of the healthcare team.
 “Wow,” said Dr. Sharon Fine from the Danville Health Center when she read the report.  “I am really excited to see the positive preliminary results from our Medical Home Pilot! The decrease in hospitalizations and emergency room utilization is impressive.  I believe that providing a medical home for my patients is key to providing superior patient care. It is great to see this translate into measureable results.”  
The report concludes that favorable trends are starting to be seen in the quality of healthcare delivered in medical homes.  Additionally, focus forums with patients in the medical homes confirmed an increase in patient satisfaction.
For more information on the St. Johnsbury area Blueprint for Health visit  To read the full Vermont Blueprint for Health Annual Report visit

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Laural Ruggles