Participation in the first 2 years of Maryland’s Advanced Primary Care Program (MDPCP) was associated with better COVID-19 outcomes compared with a matched group not involved with the program, new data indicate.
The better outcomes were seen in higher vaccination rates and fewer infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from the disease, according to study authors, led by Emily Gruber, MBA, MPH, with the Maryland Primary Care Program, Maryland Department of Health in Baltimore.
The results were published online in JAMA Network Open.
The study population was divided into MDPCP participants (n = 208,146) and a matched cohort (n = 37,203) of beneficiaries not attributed to MDPCP practices but who met eligibility criteria for study participation from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.
Researchers broke down the comparisons of better outcomes: 84.47% of MDPCP beneficiaries were fully vaccinated vs. 77.93% of nonparticipating beneficiaries (P less than .001). COVID-19–positive program beneficiaries also received monoclonal antibody treatment more often (8.45% vs. 6.11%; P less than .001).
Plus, program participants received more care via telehealth (62.95% vs. 54.53%; P less than .001) compared with those not participating.
Regarding secondary outcomes, MDPCP beneficiaries had lower rates of COVID cases (6.55% vs. 7.09%; P less than .001), lower rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations (1.81% vs. 2.06%; P = .001), and lower rates of death due to COVID-19 (0.56% vs. 0.77%; P less than .001).
Enrollment in the MDPCP is voluntary, and primary care practices can apply each year to be part of the program.
The model integrates primary care and public health in the pandemic response. It was created by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
It expands the role of primary care to include services such as expanded care management, integrated behavioral health, data-driven care, and screenings and referrals to address social needs.
Coauthor Howard Haft, MD, MMM, with the Maryland Department of Public Health, said in an interview that among the most important factors in the program’s success were giving providers vaccines to distribute and then giving providers data on how many patients are vaccinated, and who’s not vaccinated but at high risk, and how those rates compare to other practices.
As to whether this could be a widespread model, Dr. Haft said, “It’s highly replicable.”
“Every state in the nation overall has all of these resources. It’s a matter of having the operational and political will to put those resources together. Almost every state has the technological ability to use their health information exchange to help tie pieces together.”
Vaccines and testing made available to providers
Making ample vaccines and testing available to providers in their offices helped patients get those services in a place they trust, Dr. Haft said.
The model also included a payment system for providers that included a significant amount of non–visit-based payments when many locations were closed in the height of the pandemic.
“That helped financially,” as did providing free telehealth platforms to practices with training on how to use them, Dr. Haft said.
Renu Tipirneni, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and at the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation in Ann Arbor, said Maryland is out front putting into practice what practices nationwide aspire to do – coordinating physical and mental health and social needs and integrating primary and public health. Dr. Tipirneni, who was not involved with the study, said she was impressed the researchers were able to show statistically significant improvement with COVID-19 outcomes in the first 2 years.
“In terms of health outcomes, we often have to wait longer to see good outcomes,” she said. “It’s a really innovative and important model.”
She said states can learn from each other and this model is an example.
Integrating primary care and public health and addressing social needs may be the biggest challenges for states, she said, as those realms typically have been siloed.
“But they may be the key components to achieving these outcomes,” she said.
The most important benefit of the program is that data suggest it saves lives, according to Dr. Haft. While the actual difference between COVID deaths in the program and nonprogram groups was small, multiplying that savings across the nation shows substantial potential benefit, he explained.
“At a time when we were losing lives at an unconscionable rate, we were able to make a difference in saving lives,” Dr. Haft said.
Authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
The study received financial support from the Maryland Department of Health.
Dr. Tiperneni is helping evaluate Michigan’s Medicaid contract.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
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