× You are not currently logged in. To receive all the benefits our site has to offer, we encourage you to log in now.

Getting to the Heart of a Patient-Centered Medical Home

January 2016
Author: Lisa Ellis

Have you earned the designation of a Patient-Centered Medical Home (or PCMH) yet? If not, now is a good time to explore this up-and-coming model of excellence, which can be of benefit to both your patients and your organization, especially when you support the concept with your facility design so it all comes together seamlessly.

As the name implies, the philosophy of PCMH revolves around developing a primary care system focused on treating the whole person, and not just a series of symptoms or a diagnosis. In the PCMH model, the patient is at the center of the equation, and his or her providers coordinate their efforts to ensure integrated and consistent care. 

One of the defining—and in my view, most appealing—characteristics of a PCMH is the fact that it serves to empower patients to take control of their own health. This means involving them in making essential decisions regarding treatment options and followup care. It also means taking a preventative approach to help them stay well—or, if and when that effort fails, diagnosing health issues at the earliest stage so they can be treated most effectively. Making some strategic changes to your practice’s physical environment (such as by creating exam rooms that encourage communication between providers and patients and enhancing your waiting areas to make them more comfortable and also more efficient) can help to foster such collaboration and make the experience more comfortable for patients, too.

The patient-centered model can also provide essential linkages to other systems of care and community resources as appropriate, supporting people in their journey for wellness and helping them succeed on every level. Therefore, integrating technological advances such as wireless capacity in your framework can support easy access to electronic health records, medical information and a referral network to improve information exchange and efficiency.

Being a PCMH means measuring your outcomes to see how you’re making a difference.

There are a number of tools and resources that can help you to assess your impact to ensure you’re hitting the mark, and also to assist you in integrating quality improvements based on the latest data to create the most effective system of care for your patients.  

Chances are that your organization is probably already incorporating some—or even all—of these elements into your daily operations. After all, most of them really lie at the core of what you do and why you do it. But you may not be pulling them all together in such a organized and deliberate form as is set out in the PCMH model.

Transforming your organization into a proper PCMH can be a daunting proposition, even if you are already moving in the right direction. To fully comply with the operational definition of a PCMH (such as those set out by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, or NCQA, which currently runs the largest PCMH program), you’ll probably need to call on outside resources to help you implement the structure and foundation necessary to take full advantage of the benefits of this model. It’s also essential to work with architects and design specialists who truly understand how your built-space can support this philosophy.

In return for your efforts, you can expect to achieve a level of excellence that is essential to meeting the mandates of healthcare reform, including providing high-quality, cost effective care. The PCMH model puts the heart back into healthcare.