Patient-centered medical homes, a new type of health care model

With the changing landscape of health care in the United States, accelerated by requirements of the Affordable Care Act, a new model of care has emerged that promises to transform the patient-doctor relationship: the patient-centered medical home, or PCMH.

At first, the concept of a patient-centered medical home may seem confusing. After all, a PCMH isn’t located in a physical space. The word “home” in the name refers to an approach rather than a structure. In a PCMH, a group of health professionals that includes physicians, nurses, pharmacists and, often, family members, come together to provide coordinated and comprehensive care for a single patient.

In 2007, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Osteopathic Association joined forces to establish the Joint Principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home. The organizations, which together represent more than 333,000 physicians nationwide, developed a set of principles that became the foundation of the PCMH. The principles advocate a physician-led coordination of a patient’s health care using an integrated team approach.

How a PCMH works
By taking advantage of new health care IT, provider coordination is easier than ever. Coordination can be done online, via video conferencing or by email. The physician-led PCMH team works together with the patient and the patient’s family to provide health care services, as well as to answer questions about such things as costs and insurance coverage.

The goal of the PCMH is to improve patient outcomes at all stages of life in a “culturally and linguistically appropriate manner” with an emphasis on access, safety and quality of care, according to the medical organizations’ Joint Principles document.

The pharmacist’s role
Pharmacists can coordinate with the PCMH model in several ways. They may be employed by, or embedded with, a PCMH practice or they may provide services for several PCMHs either locally or within a specific geographical region.

Online specialty pharmacies can offer timely services such as medication therapy management to PCMHs and patients around the country. In fact, medication therapy management is one of the most important — and most often overlooked — pieces of the entire PCMH structure. With medication therapy management, the pharmacy evaluates the patient’s complete drug list for the appropriateness of the medications, as well as their effectiveness, safety and the patient’s adherence to taking the medications as prescribed.

Coming soon to a doctor near you
Even if you weren’t familiar with the concept before, there’s a good chance you are already part of a patient-centered medical home.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 45 percent of all health centers in the country are officially recognized as PCMHs, with more coming online every day. Preliminary studies show that patient-centered medical homes are already achieving health reform’s Triple Aim goals for better care for individuals, better health for populations and lower per-capita costs for healthcare.

That’s something worth coming home to.