The Benefits of a Patient-Centered Medical Home

There are perhaps few things on earth more frustrating than making countless phone calls between your insurance company and various medical facilities and physician offices. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Thankfully, there’s a new approach to providing personalized, coordinated care, and it’s called a patient-centered medical home (PCMH).

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, a medical home encompasses the five following characteristics:

  • Provides comprehensive care
  • Has a patient-centered focus
  • Provides coordinated care
  • Has accessible services
  • Upholds quality and safety standards

Luke Ouyang, M.D., an internist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano and Primary Care and Internal Medicine of Frisco, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, says medical homes make practical sense for both patients and health care providers.

“PCMHs are beneficial to patients in that they have a central location that will coordinate all of their medical needs,” he explains. “They have access to a team of providers, from doctors to patient navigators or social workers, that will help direct them through the complex medical system. As a doctor, I can rely on the same resources to help me take better care of my patients. The same patient navigators, nurses and social workers will help me to make sure the patients are receiving the care that I recommend.”

Within a PCMH, a patient can receive comprehensive care for their physical and mental needs, ranging from wellness checks and immunizations to care for acute problems and chronic conditions. The medical home model works to account for each individual patient’s needs, including his or her culture, values and personal preferences. The PCMH also recognizes the importance of allowing a patient to take an active part in managing his or her own care, as well as including the patient’s family in the process.

Medical homes help to lessen communication issues between a patient’s medical providers and facilities, as the person’s team (doctors, PAs, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, therapists, etc.) works together to seamlessly coordinate care across the entire health system, from the doctor’s office to the hospital and beyond. Within a medical home, a patient also has easier access to care whenever he or she needs it, via non-traditional methods such as after-hours access to physicians and online tools.

Ouyang says he has seen patient care evolve as the PCMH model has progressed.

“The doctor-patient relationship used to be solely between the doctor and the patient,” he says. “Now it involves a team of care providers from social workers to nurses to physician assistants. Over the years, more care is provided without requiring the patient to actually be in the doctor’s office. The PCMH team is able to help the patient navigate the complex medical system with fewer patients ‘falling through the cracks.’”

The American Academy of Pediatrics points to the medical home’s potential ability to not only improve the quality and continuity of care patients receive, but to also improve cost efficiency. The idea is that if a patient has a consistent relationship with his personal physician and is under the care of a comprehensive medical team, he can rely on that team to oversee the entire spectrum of his health care needs, eliminating unnecessary tests or visits to a specialist.

Ouyang sees first-hand the benefits of medical homes on a daily basis, as his practice operates under the PCMH model.

“One of the most noticeable additions to my practice is the patient navigator,” he says. “The patient navigator has instant access to all of the orders and referrals that I order after every patient encounter. They also proactively contact the patients to help them navigate the referral process, from insurance verification to actually scheduling appointments with any specialists. This process can be frustrating at times, but patients generally appreciate the assistance, especially our elderly patients.”

Texas Health has more than 6,000 affiliated physicians across the Metroplex to help improve your health. To find the right doctor for you or your family, visit TexasHealth.org/provider or call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).

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