Friday, June 26, 2009

How Does The Patient-Centered Medical Home Transform Health Care Delivery?

Can Patient-Centered Medical Homes Transform Health Care Delivery? The answer is clearly yes, and that is a point I have tried to emphasize, but I often get asked by those less familiar with the subject, how does this really make a difference?

The basic idea in a nutshell is that in order to be effective and add value, health reform must deliver a new delivery system built on a solid foundation of primary care. There are two barriers to this happening:
The medical home is an approach to primary care organized around the relationship between the patient and their personal physician. It is is primary care that is "accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective.” It has now been endorsed by important, independent health care think tanks, such as the Commonwealth Fund.

In 2007, four primary care specialty societies, representing more than 300,000 primary care specialists, issued a joint description of the Principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home:

  • A personal physician;
  • A whole-person orientation;
  • Safe and high-quality care (e.g., evidence-based medicine, appropriate use of health information technology);
  • Enhanced access to care; (e.g., phone visits, secure web visits, group visits with appropriate use of health information technology);
  • payment that recognizes the added value provided to patients and insurers who have a patient-centered medical home.
Today, few Americans say they have a source of care with these features, but I am proud to say that my medical group, Family Care Network, has made wonderful progress to become a full fledged Patient-Centered Medical Home for our patients. We now know what works. There is no excuse to delay. If we do not move forward in this effort, we will continue to reap the whirlwind of spiraling costs and plummeting value. Primary Care will disappear. Now is the time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

We are witnessing a Battle for the Soul of American Medicine

The title of this column is a direct quote from an insightful article in the New Yorker magazine, June 1, 2009, page 36, written by Dr. Atul Gwande, entitled "The Cost Conundrum, What a Texas town can teach us about health care". Read this article!

"Somewhere in the United States at this moment, a patient with chest pain, or a tumor, or a cough is seeing a doctor. And the damning question we have to ask is whether the doctor is set up to meet the needs of the patient, first and foremost, or to maximize revenue.

There is no insurance system that will make the two aims match perfectly. But having a system that does so much to misalign them has proved disastrous. As economists have often pointed out, we pay doctors for quantity, not quality. As they point out less often, we also pay them as individuals, rather than as members of a team working together for their patients. Both practices have made for serious problems."