So you want to be a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). You're not alone. Many primary care physicians (PCPs) have embarked on the same journey and for good reason. It's been shown that PCMHs can lower the cost of healthcare, increase revenue for both providers and payers, and improve patient outcomes. In addition, the technology requirements to be recognized as a PCMH now closely mirror those needed to prove "meaningful use" of health information technology (HIT) under the new healthcare legislation.
Accomplishing meaningful use means securing up to $44,000 in incentive funds from the federal government. It also means aligning your practice with the parameters needed to become recognized as a medical home.
The organizations that created the standards and methods for recognizing PCMHs recently worked with the federal government to align the two agendas. Thus, the technology needed to accomplish meaningful use (e.g., e-prescribing, electronic medical records [EMRs], patient registry, evidence-based diagnostic tools, electronic claims processing) is, for the most part, the same technology needed to become a PCMH. This way, PCPs can simultaneously accomplish both goals without breaking the bank. This makes 2011 the best year to go electronic!
"The PCMH model aligns PCPs with what they do best. It's the potential future of healthcare," says Steven Waldren, MD, director of the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP's) Center for Health IT. "Dr. Barbara Starfield's pioneering research on cost and quality relative to the penetration of primary care physicians versus the penetration of subspecialists noted that the more primary care physicians you had in a community, the lower the cost and the higher the quality. So, coordination of care—having someone who really understands primary care in a specialty like family medicine—that's a highly skilled position. I think there are opportunities to get the entire team—physicians, mid-levels, nurses, everybody—working in concert. We have a huge workforce shortage in primary care and we need to work together as a team to fill that gap.
"Physicians need to think of it as a journey they're likely already on," Waldren says. "There are many aspects of the medical home that they're doing just by being a good primary care practice. So, it's not 'we have to start all over and dump everything.' It's really—how do you continue to improve and move forward from where you're at today."
As a conscientious physician, you've educated yourself on the PCMH initiative. You may have visited the Web sites of the AAFP, the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). You may have read "Joint Principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home," the basic tenants of becoming a PCMH, written in 2007 by the four primary care organizations just mentioned. You probably know that PCMHs strive to be:
You have some understanding of the scrutiny your practice will be under during your journey to becoming a PCMH. However, you might not be fully aware of the radical changes that will take place in your practice, nor the extent to which technology will play a role in your becoming a recognized PCMH.