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Urban Medical Celebrates 30th Anniversary in Primary Care

A pioneering model of primary care developed in Jamaica Plain is celebrating its 30th anniversary as society confronts a shortage of primary care physicians to care for aging baby boomers.

BOSTON - A pioneering model of primary care developed in Jamaica Plain is celebrating its 30th anniversary as society confronts a shortage of primary care physicians to care for aging baby boomers.

Urban Medical, founded in 1977 by a group of physicians frustrated by the lack of options to care for the elderly and underserved in Boston, developed an innovative model of physician-nurse practitioner (NP) teams to provide intensive primary care first in nursing homes with the NP as the lead primary care provider.

To mark the 30th anniversary of Urban Medical, and to launch a "Fund for the Future of Primary Care" - to support the organization--, there will be a special symposium April 4 to discuss the future of primary care and the role a model like Urban Medical can play. The keynote speaker will be Harvey Fineberg, MD PhD., president of the Institute of Medicine. Other speakers include: JudyAnn Bigby, MD, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Mass., Thomas Bodenheimer, MD, professor of Family and Community Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, Robert Master, M.D., president and CEO of Commonwealth Care Alliance, and Jeffrey Kang, MD,MPH, senior vice president and chief medical officer, CIGNA Health Care.

The symposium will be from 8 a.m. to noon at the Conference Center at Harvard Medical School, followed by an evening gala celebration of Urban Medical's 30 years at the Westin Copley Hotel.

The "Urban Medical model" as it became known, helped to transform nursing home care in 40 states and became the model for "Evercare".

Urban Medical also created Boston's first physician/nurse practitioner directed home care system -"House Calls"; developed team-based primary care in elderly housing; and extended the team model to provide primary care to home-bound patients.

Urban Medical has had a strong partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center since Urban Medical's inception. Its 11 physicians have staff privileges allowing for a continuity of care from nursing home, assisted living facility or home to the hospital and back. And 30 years ago Beth Israel developed a program that was the model for "House Calls."

Urban Medical is "the Holy Grail of healthcare," according to Andrew Dreyfus, executive vice president of health care for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, because it provides higher quality care to its patients at lower costs to the system as a whole.

These results stem from the Urban Medical "model" which is marked by a commitment to:

  • Proactive treatment of patients with chronic disease;
  • Support that allows aging and frail patients to live independently;
  • Avoiding unnecessary and costly hospitalizations;
  • Caring for patients in their homes, in the Urban Medical offices, and in the hospital.

"The Urban Medical model was revolutionary in 1977 and after 30 years has proven itself an important example of how we might think about creating systems that could care for aging baby boomers," said Master, one of the founders of Urban Medical. "We have shown that using the team approach can provide better care at less cost," he said.

Urban Medical's experience in several innovative insurance plans for the elderly demonstrates its ability to provide care that is about 60 to 65 percent of average spending for the same population because the model enables patients to stay at home and avoids unnecessary hospitalizations and nursing home admissions.