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My New (Medical) Home

September 22, 2011

You’ve no doubt heard the term Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). And you might have a vague idea about its definition. But if someone asked you to describe it in a sentence or two, could you?

First, the basic concept: PCMH isn’t a place but rather an approach for continuous, comprehensive, coordinated care.  It’s a  partnership between a patient and his or her healthcare team. The medical home focuses on the whole person, providing integrated care across the entire medical system, including primary care physicians as well as specialists.

Features of a PCMH can include: enhanced access, longer hours, prevention and proactive management, patient education, and electronic health records. The office hopes to get their patients out of the emergency rooms and back into the office or “medical home”.  With the longer hours, they can accommodate many of the “urgent” requests.

The Patient-Centered Medical Home lets you  become much more involved in your care.

I am a patient at a PCMH, and I have really noticed a difference.  Getting in to see my doctor now involves very limited wait time.  When I’m taken back to an exam room, my doctor’s medical assistant talks to me and  gets everything ready for me to see the doctor.  She goes over any questions or  concerns with me. This saves time when the doctor comes in. We can get right down to discussing why I’m in the office, whether it’s routine, what my test results (which I can get online and look over in the privacy of my home) show, what future tests I might need, and any referrals to a specialist.  We discuss options for treatment, specialists and  tests and make the decisions together.

To me, this feels more like getting back to the basics of health care than a “new concept.”

Here at CHI, we’re especially watching how medical homes are integrated into the delivery of care to those covered by Medicaid and other public programs and whether it can make these safety-net systems more cost-efficient and effective.

The PCMH model has great potential, but it will take  time, expertise and resources to transform the system. From the point of view of one health-care consumer, it’s a worthwhile effort.

Here’s the link to an informative video from HealthTeamWorks, a Colorado non-profit collaborative working to redesign the healthcare delivery system.