The Mayo Clinic recently began a three-year pilot PCMH project in Wisconsin, in conjunction with Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire.
Crucially, insurance companies are coming on board. In January, Indianapolis-based benefits company WellPoint announced a new payment system designed to promote better primary care, with increases to regular fees, payments for “non-visit” services, and shared savings payments based on quality outcomes and reduced medical costs.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield has reported success with PCMH models.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is testing a PCMH model to see whether it generates higher quality of care and cost savings. So is the Department of Veterans Affairs.
—David Meyers, MD, director, Center for Primary Care, Prevention and Clinical Partnerships, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Washington, D.C.
Primary-care doctors, hospitalists and government officials say the concept is likely here to stay. “We’re in a period of change,” Dr. Meyers says. “I don’t know where we’re going to be in five years from now, but forces are aligning such that this may really work.”
And hospitalists are vital to the success of any PCMH.
“The patient-centered medical home,” he says, “to be effective on what it can do, has to be integrated into a patient-centered medical neighborhood—the partnership between primary care or ambulatory care and inpatient care, and specifically the hospitalists and those folks working in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.”
Gordon Chen, MD, a cardiologist and senior vice president of medical affairs at Chen Medical in Miami, where a number of PCMH concepts have been in place for 10 years, says that he works both with hospitalists employed by Chen Medical and some not employed by Chen Medical. And he notices the difference.
“It can be a little bit more difficult to reach and to coordinate and collaborate with other physicians, but we can do it,” he says.
A tighter connection allows information to flow better between the PCPs and the hospitalists, he points out.
“One of the most frustrating things as a physician is to find out that your patient had a prolonged hospitalization and they come to see you in the clinic and you don’t have any information,” Dr. Chen says. “You look at this new medication list and you’re trying to put the pieces together. When a doctor doesn’t have all the information, and is guessing … it leads to poor decisions being made.”
Back at Dean Health System in Wisconsin, Dr. Eichhorn is confident that the concepts behind the patient-centered medical home can only be good for patients. Still, the project there—as at many other places—is a work in progress.
“Emphasizing wellness and preventative health certainly conveys significant benefits,” he says. “The challenge is defining what is a patient-centered medical home. It sounds like every group is struggling what that means and how to define it and then how to track your outcomes. And then does the patient have a sense of that? Are they appreciating something different in what’s happening to their healthcare?”
Thomas R. Collins is a freelance writer in South Florida.