The American health care environment is rapidly changing. One model of health care that's expanding across the country is the patient-centered medical home.
A medical home is not a physical location, as the name implies, but a team-based model of health care delivery led by a physician or other qualified provider (for example, a physician assistant or nurse practitioner) that emphasizes a life-long, personal relationship between patient and physician from birth to old age.
"From sick visits to chronic conditions, patients really benefit from the team-based care approach," said John Burke, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, an accrediting body for health care organizations.
"However, there are a variety of aspects and options to consider when determining if a medical home is the best choice for you."
Focus on the patient: Medical homes help patients and families to manage, organize and participate in health care decisions as fully informed partners in their care.
This leads to patients seeking the right care, from the right place, at the right time.
"Whether visiting your primary care doctor or a specialist, your entire family's health records are centrally located to be quickly and easily accessed by any provider, from childhood through old age," said Burke.
"As your needs and care changes, your primary care could co-locate with a specialist needed, like an OB/GYN."
Comprehensive coordination: In a medical home, a team of care providers is wholly accountable for the patient's physical and mental health care needs, which includes the entire spectrum of care from prevention and wellness to chronic, long-term care.
Physicians and nurses ensure care is organized across the broader health care system, should patients require a hospital stay or visit to a specialist, like a cardiologist.
This level of comprehensive coordination means patients are less likely to seek care from emergency settings, delay care or leave conditions untreated.
It also means providers are less likely to order duplicate tests or procedures, which can lead to lower costs and more efficient treatment for patients.
Accessibility: Medical homes have been shown to reduce wait times, increase patients' access to their doctor and keep better electronic health records.
A more accessible doctor means a patient is more likely to receive preventive care, reducing the incidences and severity of chronic diseases.
Commitment to quality and safety: Knowing how patients fare after leaving the doctor's office results in fewer future hospitalizations and readmissions.
So physicians and staff are tasked with monitoring quality improvement goals and using the data to track their patients' outcomes.
Also, electronic health records and medication management allow doctors and staff to let patients know when it's time for vaccinations, check-up appointments or physical exams.
The result is a bigger focus on wellness and preventive care, instead of a patient only seeking care when they are sick or injured.
How do you know if a medical home is meeting quality standards and clinical outcomes?
AAAHC offers a comprehensive medical home accreditation that grades providers on how well they meet standards of care -- including continuity and accessibility of care, clinical records and health information and the quality care patients receive.
"We look for and evaluate requirements in a medical home, like the relationship among the patient and their providers," said Burke.
"Becoming a medical home is a transformative process, and the only true way to assess a medical home is at the point of care and from a patient perspective."
For more information, visit aaahc.org/medicalhome.
A medical home is not a physical location, as the name implies, but a team-based model of health care delivery led by a physician or other qualified provider that emphasizes a life-long, personal relationship between patient and physician from birth to old age.