Making Patient-Centered Primary Care Key Component In Fixing Health Care

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As Election Day nears, Americans want their next President to support a patient-centered medical home as part of their health care reform agenda. A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative found that support for the major presidential candidates’ health care plans surges when the patient-centered medical home model is included.

The survey found that more than 75 percent of U.S. adults who indicated their opinion would change said they would increase their support for the next U.S. President’s health care reform plan if it includes a patient-centered medical home, characterized by a team-based approach to care led by a personal physician’s practice, which maximizes health outcomes by providing continuous and coordinated care throughout a patient's life.

The survey of 2,022 self-identified registered voters found that 96 percent think it’s important that health care reform is a top priority for the next president. In addition, the majority of respondents (56 percent) reported that it is difficult to navigate the health care system for themselves and their families.

The patient-centered medical home model is designed to more effectively tailor health care to each patient’s needs. Based on preventive care and the management of chronic disease, the PCMH strengthens the relationship between the patient and personal physician by providing:

* preventive services, sick care and help managing chronic conditions;

* expanded hours and same-day appointments;

* care coordination across all settings – doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, consultants, and other components of the complex health care system;

* electronic health records that serve as a “library” where the essential elements of a patient’s medical history and health care interactions are stored securely;

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* use of technology that enable doctors to communicate with one another about mutual patients’ medical conditions;

* virtual office visits via a secure e-mail system; and

* the convenience of transmitting prescriptions electronically to pharmacies.

The PCMH would resolve many of the issues cited by Americans as reasons for their overwhelming support of health care reform. As a result, the PCPCC is aggressively advocating for support of the PCMH model and expansion of patient-centered primary care as part of health care reform proposals both before and after the election.

“We know health care reform is going to be front and center next year, no matter who wins on Nov. 4,” said Paul Grundy, MD, MPH, chairman of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative and Director of Healthcare Technology and Strategic Initiative at IBM. “We want the next President to know that the patient-centered medical home is a model that is proving to provide better health outcomes for patients while holding the line, or in some cases, even reducing the costs of delivering health care.”

The survey results are to be released as part of the second annual Patient-Centered Medical Home Summit in Washington, DC, on Oct. 17. During the Summit, health policy leaders will share best practices and review the progress the PCMH is making in communities via demonstration projects and pilot programs across the country. The evidence from these pilot programs already is showing real cost savings by reducing the number of unnecessary tests, consultations and emergency room visits.

“The goal of the patient-centered medical home is for patients to have an ongoing relationship with a personal physician who leads a team coordinating their care,” said Sarah Thomas, Director of Health Care for the Public Policy Institute at AARP. “This approach would allow more time for patients, especially those with multiple chronic conditions, and doctors’ compensation would be tied to meeting certain standards and bundled into a ‘care coordination’ fee for each patient.”

The PCMH model enjoys bipartisan political support and both major presidential candidates have publicly voiced support for the patient-centered medical home model.

“As President, I will encourage and provide appropriate payment for providers who implement the medical home model…which collectively will help to improve care for those with chronic conditions,” Sen. Obama responded to an American Academy of Family Physicians survey in 2008.

Sen. McCain also has spoken in favor of the model: “We must move away from a system that is fragmented and pays for expensive procedures toward one where a family has a medical home…where the focus is on affordable quality outcomes,” Sen. McCain said in an April 28, 2008 speech.

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