What is a Patient Centered Medical Home?

Experts at Emory Healthcare break down the concept of a Patient Centered Medical Home – and explain why patients benefit.In this era of health care reform, as the topics of health care access and affordability frequently make headlines, it’s possible you’ve heard the term “patient centered medical home.” If so, you likely brushed it off as another example of medical jargon that is not relevant to you.

But believe it or not, the concept of a patient centered medical home, or PCMH, is quickly becoming more mainstream – and may eventually become the standard of care in your own doctor’s office.

In primary care clinics across the country, doctors and other medical professionals are adopting PCMH principles. Let’s explore how their efforts to implement this model of care make the health care experience more meaningful to patients.

Less About a Physical Place, More About a Philosophy

First, let’s break down the name patient centered medical home:

  • Despite what the phrase may imply, a medical home is not a nursing home or assisted living facility. Instead, think of it as your medical “home base,” the place and professionals you turn to when you get sick or need a routine check-up. In other words, your medical home is most likely your primary care provider’s office.
  • Perhaps more important are the words patient centered. In a PCMH, everything from office hours to treatment plans are designed with the patient in mind – so you can receive the care you need when you need it, and in ways that address your health, schedule, cultural and other personal needs. Some examples of this enhanced focus on patient needs are included below.

What Makes a Patient Centered Medical Home Different?

Let’s review how you and other patients benefit when you receive care from a patient centered medical home:

  • Consistent, team-based care. In a PCMH you have an entire team of health professionals at your disposal, most under one roof. This care team, led by your chosen primary care doctor, may include advanced practice providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, as well as other licensed clinicians ranging from dietitians and case managers to behavioral and mental health specialists.

 When you need care, you only see members of your own care team, all of whom are familiar with your health history and contribute to managing your health. Over time, this consistency      allows you to develop strong, trusted relationships with your providers.

  • Better coordination of care. If you need services that your primary care doctor’s office can’t provide, your care team will help coordinate them so you don’t have to navigate the complicated health system on your own. Whether you need to see a specialist, are admitted to a hospital or require home health visits, your team will make sure you get the care you need and will stay on top of your ongoing progress.
  • More accessible care. You can see (or reach) your doctor or another member of your care team more quickly, thanks to non-traditional hours on evenings or weekends, and non-traditional means of communication including secure e-mail, video chats or after-hours phone calls.
  • More meaningful care. In a PCMH, you’re considered both a patient and a partner. This means you can take a more active role in advocating for and managing your own health. Care team members help facilitate this partnership by serving as teachers and coaches – so you always have someone to turn to when you need help managing your diet, understanding your medications or achieving your goals.

The Gold Seal of Approval

For most primary care clinics, the transformation to a PCMH requires significant investment and effort. Organizations may need to hire advanced practice providers, extend their business hours and implement the latest health care technology including electronic medical records and telemedicine software.

However, these efforts pay off – on average, practices that have become medical homes have higher quality, lower costs and greater patient satisfaction. To that end, organizations like the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) have created recognition programs to formally endorse clinics that have met stringent criteria for calling themselves a PCMH.

In the Emory Healthcare Network, 9 primary care practices have earned NCQA PCMH Level 3 Recognition in the past year.

  • Emory Clinic at Midtown
  • Emory Clinic at Decatur
  • Emory Clinic at Saint Joseph’s – General Internal Medicine
  • Emory at Covington – Adams Street
  • Emory at Covington – Newton Drive
  • Emory at Covington – Hospital Drive
  • Emory at Sugarloaf
  • Emory at Eagles Landing

These practices join two other Emory patient centered medical homes with NCQA PCMH Level 3 recognition: Patient Centered Primary Care at 1525 Clifton Road, which earned recognition in 2011, and Emory Clinic at Dunwoody – Family Medicine, which earned recognition in 2014.

To learn more about these locations, call Emory HealthConnection at 404-778-7777.

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