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Keys to Grand Junction's low-cost and high-quality healthcare
• Providers collaborate to emphasize preventive care for all and the reduction of complications in cases of major chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
• A non-profit hospice emphasizes comfort for the dying over futile chemotherapy and surgery, extending life an average of 10 days and saving $5,150 for every person who dies there.
• The one dominant home health agency is non-profit, not owned by doctors ordering treatment that brings them profits.
• Regional system of electronic medical records allows all providers to be warned of allergies, complications, medical history; cuts duplicated tests; collects statistics for peer review.
• All pregnant women are guaranteed pre-natal care. This cuts prematurity, improves babies' health, and cuts expensive days in the intensive-care nursery.
• Nearly all patients have a personal doctor for primary care. Such "medical homes" coordinate and improve care, and reduce expensive care by specialists.
• Healthcare agencies work together to recruit physicians, and increase the ratio of primary care physicians to specialists, reducing expensive procedures.
• A local family medicine residency program has trained 50 doctors who stayed to practice in Mesa County, locally easing a national shortage of primary care physicians.
• The regional hospital subsidizes a low-priced clinic for the uninsured, who receive faster care than in the hospital emergency room. By cutting expensive and unpaid care in the ER, the hospital saves millions of dollars.
• Rocky Mountain Health Plans, the leading insurer, subsidizes after-hours clinics, providing patients with care faster, and reducing expensive emergency-room visits.
• The leading insurer pays doctors the same rates for all patients, so they have no financial reason to decline to take patients on Medicaid and Medicare. Those patients have no problem finding a personal physician, as elsewhere, and therefore receive better, steadier and less expensive care.
• Most healthcare providers are non-profit, with mission statements focusing on serving the community.
• Colorado law caps medical malpractice awards at $1 million, reducing marginally useful actions aimed at staving off lawsuits.
• Area has unusually low rates of obesity, diabetes, and other major chronic illnesses. It is not clear how much is due to original health and genetics of local population, and how much is due to area's emphasis on prevention, and its near-universal care.