By Tim Charles and Dr. Timothy Quinn / Guest Editorial
“Medical home” is a buzz-phrase in the healthcare industry. It is loosely thrown around and often misunderstood. A medical home is a term that encompasses a team-based approach to providing coordinated healthcare. It provides care from a relational perspective, beginning with your primary care physician and extending to affiliated hospitals and specialists.
The medical home model is an innovative framework for how primary care should be given, but often falls short. It is not a physical location as the name implies but, rather, a way of providing care that connects all the dots in offering optimal care customized for each individual. It offers hope as a solution to the nation’s costly and fragmented healthcare system. Physicians, employers, insurance companies, the government, consumer groups and others are increasingly looking at this model as a potential solution to making our nation healthier and reducing costs in a time when healthcare costs are rising faster than the rate of inflation.
Current circumstances call for physicians to reach out and build relationships with patients. These are two-way relationships, where communication is encouraged and patients receive the support they need to follow through with physician recommendations. Physician offices coordinate all the medical touch points along the path of care, from birth to end-of-life.
This model ensures:
• You get the right care at the right time.
• You receive care from a team focused on keeping you healthy.
• You receive information, support and screenings to prevent health problems, rather than simply treating illness.
• Your medical costs are lower and ongoing health concerns are managed.
Finding a primary care physician who embraces this model is vital. Recently, each of the 13 MercyCare family practice clinics (in addition to Internist Associates of Iowa and Mercy’s Employee Health Center) has been recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home 2011 by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). In order to earn this recognition, the clinics were required to submit data on nine standards: access and communication, patient tracking and registry functions, care management, patient self-management and support, electronic prescribing, test tracking, referral tracking, performance reporting and improvement, as well as advanced electronic communication.
Beyond simply embracing a medical home philosophy, the clinics continue to meet specific standards and measurements required of a recognized medical home. In January 2010, MercyCare Clinics started an innovative quality program tracking 115 different metrics, such as preventive screenings. The clinics consistently outperform national averages for proactive screenings, preventive care and management of chronic conditions, which leads to better care, more effective healthcare spending and higher patient satisfaction.
Since Mercy Medical Center, MercyCare Clinics and Mercy-affiliated specialists offices went live with Epic in 2013, patients have a single, electronic patient documentation system. Physician office care teams input data into a secure electronic medical record accessible to the patient. MyChart, part of the Epic system, allows patients to request or change an appointment, ask for a prescription renewal, contact their healthcare team and find helpful information about their health. Health information is gathered at MyChart from all points of care and follows patients wherever they may be in the continuum of care, ensuring one unified source of records across the Mercy system, including the emergency room, the hospital and your primary doctor’s office.
Epic has been valuable for MercyCare clinics as they worked toward and now maintain their Patient-Centered Medical Home certification. Having one seamless health record for patients through Epic will continue to improve the coordination of care across the entire Mercy system and the Corridor.
Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which were created as an extension of healthcare reform, are the health system’s equivalent of the individual patient’s Medical Home. The ACO coordinates care between doctors and hospitals for all patients, while helping to lower costs. One example is the ACO recently formed by Mercy Medical Center and UI Health Care in partnership with Wellmark. In addition to facilitating coordination and cooperation among providers, ACOs are rewarded for meeting performance standards on quality of care, better health outcomes and positive patient experience while decreasing healthcare costs.
Changing the way we deliver healthcare reduces costs and makes it simpler for patients to get the care they need. The Medical Home model, the ACO and Epic are major milestones in Mercy’s continued commitment to provide excellence in quality, value and patient-centered care.
Tim Charles is president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center.
Timothy Quinn is president of MercyCare Community Physicians.