The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 11, 2014

A community makes a difference in providing effective health care


Working parents in Louisiana get publicly funded medical care only if they make less than a quarter of the federal poverty level, or $4,687 for a family of three. By contrast, Minnesota will make fully subsidized coverage available this year to families of three making up to $26,951.

Patients at the St. Paul clinic also benefit from one of the nation’s first statewide systems to track care and develop better ways to keep patients healthy.

Hundreds of Minnesota doctors report whether diabetic patients have controlled blood pressure, how long patients with depression go before relapsing, and whether young patients who have been prescribed drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder get follow-up care.

“It’s really hard to improve if you don’t have data,” said Jim Chase, president of Minnesota Community Measurement, a nonprofit organization funded by the health care industry and the state that gathers and publishes data on doctors’ performance.

In Louisiana, just a quarter of physician practices in 2012 used electronic medical records that can do things such as track medications and store lab results. That is the lowest rate in the nation, according to federal data.

Wester, the hospital chief executive, acknowledged that effectively caring for all patients in his state remains a distant goal. “It’s going to be a long haul, 10 years or more,” he said.

In Minnesota, the focus on measuring quality has changed the way Open Cities cares for patients.

Every morning, the medical team huddles in clinic manager Roxanne Tisdale’s office to review the day’s appointments and highlight patients who’ve recently been to the hospital or are due for an important test.

At one recent huddle, Tisdale called out several diabetics overdue for blood sugar tests, a middle-aged woman in need of a mammogram and another who might benefit from seeing the clinic’s mental health specialist.

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