research suggests improvement needed among pas medical homes

It seems as if everyone from insurance companies and politicians to medical professionals and patient advocacy groups are constantly on the lookout for new health care models that are designed to yield even more efficient and effective patient care.

To illustrate, one such model that has gained a significant amount of attention among these groups over the last few years is the “medical home.”

For those unfamiliar with the medical home, it is essentially a health care model in which a team comprised of everyone from specialists and nurses to mental health providers and outpatient caregivers is directed by a single primary care specialist.

Here, the idea is that the primary care specialist serves in much the same capacity as an orchestra conductor or baseball manager, directing personnel and delegating responsibility in a manner that is envisioned to personalize and improve the quality of care while simultaneously reducing both complications and cost.

Interestingly, former Governor Ed Rendell’s 2008 health care reform initiative “Prescriptions for Pennsylvania” called for the launch of medical home pilots in several regions throughout the state. In exchange for a decent payment, primary care doctors looking to participate in the program were required to focus on certain medical conditions and receive accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that these medical homes perhaps aren’t the long-term solution that many people thought they would be.

“The medical home has gained popularity as a new model of primary care, with the expectation that the approach will produce better and lower-cost health care,” said the primary author of the JAMA study. “Our findings suggest that achieving all of these goals is a challenge.”

The researchers discovered the following after comparing data on 120,000 patients who received treatment at 32 medical homes or 29 other practices throughout the southeast region of Pennsylvania over a three-year period:

  • Of the 11 quality measures studied, the researchers saw significant improvement in only one measure (covering such conditions as asthma care, diabetes control and cancer screening) at the medical homes.
  • There were no reductions/improvements concerning hospitalizations, ER visits or total medical care costs at the medical homes.

For its part, the Pennsylvania Medical Society has indicated that the JAMA study shouldn’t be viewed as an indictment of the overall efficacy of medical homes, but rather as a tool to inform providers as to where changes need to be made in the health care model.

It should be interesting to see what changes, if any, come about as a result of this study and whether medical homes will become the new norm. In the meantime, researchers should strongly consider expanding upon the JAMA study to determine what impact, if any, medical homes have on the equally important issue of patient safety.

If you have suffered irreparable harm or lost a loved one because of a medical mistake, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn about your options for securing the justice you need to move forward with your life.

Source: The Morning Call, “Study finds few improvements with ‘medical homes,’” Tim Darragh, Feb. 26, 2014

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