Bridging the “Medical Home” Knowledge Gap

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

The concept of “medical homes” — establishing a medical point of contact through which each individual can receive comprehensive medical services — is not a new one. Pediatricians have been on board with this idea since the 1960’s, and national physicians groups embraced it in the 1990’s. In two separate HIN 2006 audio conferences –— “Non-Urgent Emergency Room Usage: Proven Ways to Redirect Care to Appropriate Settings” and “Serving the Needs of the Medicaid Population in Disease Management Programs” — we heard industry thought leaders suggest that the establishment of medical homes could lead to more prudent use of healthcare resources, especially emergency departments.

That’s why the results of a recent HIN survey were disturbing. Of the 230+ respondents who answered HIN’s November 2006 online questionnaire on the subject, almost half — 46.3 percent — said they weren’t familiar with the phrase “medical home.” Others erroneously associated it with remote monitoring of patients or a physical structure.

Granted, these results are not scientific –- just the responses from the hospitals, health plans and others that happened to hear about the survey. But it identifies a knowledge gap — and an opportunity — for healthcare organizations looking to improve care levels while holding down costs. A summary of the Medical Home survey results contains many online resources for researching this topic, including mention of a pediatric residency program in Hawaii that includes a “medical home” module in its training.

Now Congress is offering a financial incentive to make medical homes part of the healthcare landscape. Congressional action this past December strengthened the concept of a patient-centered medical home. The Medicare Medical Home Demonstration, authorized in the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, will be launched in eight states. This program demo will provide physicians who participate in the program with a “care coordination fee” for managing the care of patients with multiple chronic conditions as well as the ability to share in system-wide savings that may result.

We’ll be watching this demo with interest.

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