The following is an excerpt from our 2011 Annual Report.
What is a Medical Home?
A medical home is an approach to providing comprehensive primary care that builds partnerships between patients, their physicians and, when appropriate, their families.
The American Academy of Pediatrics was at the forefront of the medical home movement, detailing decades ago that every child needed a place where care was accessible, ongoing, patient and family-centered, of high quality, coordinated, and compassionate.
Today, those philosophies have been expanded to adults as they’ve been adopted by family practice and other health care associations.
In fact, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a non-profit dedicated to improving health care quality, is now recognizing qualifying medical practices as Patient-Centered Medical Homes.
Bethel Health Center family physician Dr. Terry Cantlin talks with patient Eileen Strickland-Holtham of South Royalton during a routine exam. The Bethel Health Center is one of five Gifford practices recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home.
Patient-Centered Medical Homes
Achieving the Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition is part of the Vermont Blueprint for Health’s goals for all primary care providers in the state.
The hope is to improve primary care so patients are getting regular needed care and other supports to maintain their health before facing more costly emergency or inpatient care.
“The medical home adopts a ‘whole person’ approach to primary care, encompassing medical, behavioral and self-management support,” says Gifford Blueprint Project Coordinator LaRae Francis. “It’s the entire health care team wrapping its arms around the patient to provide the support and resources he or she needs to manage his or her health
“It aims to keep people healthier, enhance their quality of life and benefit them financially, both through reduced health care costs and secondary costs such as missed work.”
In 2011, each of Gifford’s primary care practices – the Gifford Health Center at Berlin’s pediatrics practice, the Bethel Health Center, the Chelsea Health Center, Gifford primary care in Randolph and the Rochester Health Center – was recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home following inspections by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
The health centers, which serve a total 21,540 patients, each formed quality improvement teams to address expectations for a Patient-Centered Medical Home, primarily through honing and streamlining systems. Among those expectations, or standards, were access to care, communication, such as through timely callbacks to patients and tracking referrals and tests, such as lab results to ensure they are communicated back to the patient.
The process, says Vice President of Medicine Teresa Voci, allowed the health centers to identify and correct problems. It’s all work done behind the scenes, but also all work that makes care more timely for patients.
Labs, X-rays and referrals to specialists are all now better tracked to ensure the patient and the primary care provider know the results of those exams, notes Chelsea Health Center site manager and nurse Travis Worthen. Providers are also more often meeting with patients to go over results.
And the patient is increasingly a bigger part of the health care team.
“Historically, medicine has always told patients what to do and now medicine is really turning toward engaging the patient in a partnership for health outcomes,” Teresa explains.
Blueprint Project Coordinator LaRae Francis has headed up efforts to implement the Vermont Blueprint for Health at Gifford and in the larger Randolph Health Service Area.
The work doesn’t stop with Gifford.
With the medical center’s primary care locations now all recognized, LaRae, as Blueprint coordinator for the Randolph Health Service Area (a Blueprint-defined area spanning from Randolph to White River Junction), is now looking outside of Gifford. She’s reaching out to White River Family Practice in Wilder and the South Royalton Health Center.
She hopes to help these private health centers also earn the recognition, further improving patient care in our region.