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Los Lunas gets new approach to health care

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LOS LUNAS — A new medical facility and a new approach to health care is coming to the village early next year.

After recently being selected to insure village employees and their family members, Lovelace Health Plan announced its plan to open a primary care clinic in Los Lunas.

The clinic will be available for all of the nearly 500 village employees, their family members and anyone with Lovelace Health Plan insurance.

Coverage for village employees began July 1. The addition of the employees will mean Lovelace’s health plan now covers more than 10,000 people in Valencia County, according to Doug Gullino, the vice president of commercial sales and service for Lovelace Health Plan.

The clinic will introduce a health care approach residents of the county probably don’t have available currently, he said.

“It really gives folks access to medical care in a way we should have always been doing,” Gullino said. “It gives better care, better access to the whole system, to all the different services and providers we offer.”

Called a “patient centered medical home model,” John Cruickshank, M.D. and chief medical officer at Lovelace Health Plan, said this is a change that is sweeping the country.

When he ran his private family practice for 18 years, Cruickshank said he would start his day double-booked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“If we got a call at 1 p.m., we either had to triple book or we couldn’t see them,” Cruickshank said. “That model and experience in New Mexico caused trouble because of the access and availability of physicians. People were forced to go to the ER, which is a higher cost, and really just aggravating. And after treatment, the patient’s primary doctor might not be in the loop.”

One big change this “medical home” model will bring, is the allocation of a certain percentage of appointments reserved for same-day access at the new Lovelace clinic, Cruickshank said.

“As much as two-thirds of the work is not done by a doctor — it’s done using a team-based approach,” he said. “And right now, if you come in with tennis elbow, all we’ll treat is the tennis elbow. Using the medical home model, you are treated for the injury, but we also make sure, say you have diabetes, that you are taking your medications correctly.”

Cruickshank said the treatment model Lovelace will implement will also include registries of its patients, to track people with ongoing medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, to ensure that they are staying compliant with medications and treatment.

“This is what we want to bring to the community,” he said.

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