Seven regional family medical centers of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences earned national recognition as patient-centered medical homes, where a patient’s care is personalized and health professionals work as a team to address chronic conditions.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance awarded Level II Patient-Centered Medical Home accreditation to Family Medical Centers at Area Health Education Center in El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Springdale and Texarkana.
“This accreditation is the result of more than three years of hard work to better coordinate patient care and improve access to care,” said Mark Mengel, M.D., UAMS vice chancellor for regional programs and director of the AHEC program.
UAMS spent $6-$8 million to hire additional personnel and purchase information technology to better integrate patient care at the regional centers. New software was used to create a disease registry and standardize data entry for electronic medical records
The patient-centered medical home creates partnerships between individual patients, and their physicians and the patient’s family. Care is facilitated by registries, information technology and health information exchange, so patients get the indicated care when and where they need and want it.
“There’s better access to care,” Mengel said. “Now, we have different avenues patients can use to communicate with their care team — a web portal, email or the phone. It means better quality of care because we focus on these important health outcomes.”
With the patient-centered medical home model, more frequent communication takes place outside the exam room between each patient and each center’s physicians and staff. Between visits, more is done to monitor a patient’s condition and help the patient stay on a treatment plan.
“The patients with chronic illness have noticed a change,” Mengel said. “We call them if their outcomes aren’t good. We’re much more proactive about bringing patients in and feel we’re more on top of their conditions.”
In addition to improving patient outcomes, the model promises to cut costs by reducing the need for hospitalization or emergency room care. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seven medical home demonstration projects at primary care practices reported a 6 percent to 40 percent reduction in hospitalizations, a 7 percent to 29 percent decline in emergency room visits and a savings of $71-$640 per patient.
Nationally, about a quarter of the primary care practices have adopted the patient-centered medical home model.
Mengel said the regional family medical centers are on track to achieve Level III —the highest level of accreditation — by the end of 2013.