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Corrections Health Services Initiated

Contact: Ralph Derickson

Photo of Phillip W. Roeder
Phillip W. Roeder, UK political science professor, will monitor the new inmate health services program under an agreement between UK and the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

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Under the new network, an inmate who is taken to an infirmary at a corrections institution or jail will be examined and diagnosed, and, if the inmate needs specialized treatment, the procedure will be scheduled with a caregiver identified within the network.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 19, 2003) -- The University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDoC) have initiated a new Kentucky Corrections Health Services Network (KCHSN) aimed at saving millions of dollars for health care services while providing more effective care for the state’s inmate population.

The project, which became effective in October 2003 under a memorandum of agreement between the Kentucky Department of Corrections and UK, establishes a statewide health network that delivers hospital and specialty care for approximately 16,000 state inmates.

The innovative public-private partnership, with statewide coverage using hospitals, clinics, medical doctors, and other providers working under contracts with private health care networks, contracts out the operation of the network to a private sector firm selected through a competitive bid process. The firm is responsible for data management including outcomes assessment, ad hoc reporting, third party administration, and case management, incorporating utilization review, care pathways, and continuous quality improvement. Although contracted out to the private sector, the Department of Corrections maintains network control through a project monitor at UK.

Phillip W. Roeder, UK political science professor and UK monitor for the network, said that in the first six weeks of operation the new system saved 35 percent over previous costs. Since the annual health care costs for inmates held in 12 Kentucky prisons and 75 jails around the state is $15 million, a substantial savings of health care dollars is expected.

The cost of implementing the network in the fist years is about $2 million and will be substantially less than the cost savings provided by the network, Roeder said.

Even more savings will be achieved through an improved inmate-patient screening process, Roeder said. “Every time someone does not stay an unnecessary day in a hospital saves the state and the taxpayer a lot of money,” he added. “Using state-of-the-art management information systems will provide more effective tracking of inmates and their care.”

Roeder said that prior to KCHSN, specialty and hospital care for state inmates was obtained in an ad hoc manner by each institution with limited control and coordination by the Medical Branch of the Department of Corrections in Frankfort.

Similar to a traditional HMO, the KCHSN pays for medical procedures, Roeder added. The price of the procedures is established through discounts for health services based on provider competition for network patients.

Under the new network, an inmate who is taken to an infirmary at a corrections institution or jail will be examined and diagnosed, and, if the inmate needs specialized treatment, the procedure will be scheduled with a caregiver identified within the network.

If the process is uncomplicated, the procedure will be scheduled, but if it is difficult or complicated, the network and ultimately the Kentucky Department of Corrections must approve the treatment.

Roeder, who helped start the Master of Health Administration program in the UK Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and has taught health policy for some time, said UK’s work with the Department of Corrections is a natural outgrowth of that academic activity. “This project provides the opportunity to test theories about health care management and innovations in health care for those in the corrections system in a real-world setting,” Roeder noted.

This new cooperative venture with the Kentucky Department of Corrections should also offer UK and the University of Louisville with their large medical centers increased research possibilities for both health care and medical services administration, Roeder said. “Given the broad range of pathologies in the inmate population, we have a lot to learn about managing health care and providing effective treatments,” Roeder said.


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