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Medical Home: Consumerism Delivered

By Lindsay Resnick, January 5, 2009

Consumer Directed Healthcare can be defined as health benefit plans that put consumers and their providers at the center of health care decision-making, giving them greater discretion and power over benefit dollars and medical care choices. These plans often include increased cost-sharing wrapped around an HSA, decision support tools to evaluate choices, “health coaches” to encourage care management, and incentives to promote healthy lifestyles. Rather than shielding consumers, CDH plans engage them directly.

CDH is based on “patient centeredness” which, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, refers to health care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients and their families to ensure that decisions respect patients’ wants, needs and preferences; and ensure they have access to education and support to make decisions and participate in their own care.

Consumer Directed Healthcare and patient centeredness has given rise to the next “hot trend” in healthcare - the medical home. A medical home is not a house, clinic or hospital, but rather an approach to providing comprehensive primary care. A medical home is defined as primary care that is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centric, compassionate, and culturally effective.

A “whole person” orientation to healthcare delivery is at the core of the medical home. A personal physician is responsible for providing all the patient’s healthcare needs. Care is coordinated across all components of the patient’s healthcare community - hospitals, specialty physicians, pharmacists, social services, home health, nursing homes, and ancillary providers. And, it includes a vision of care for all stages of life, acute and chronic, wellness and prevention, and end-of-life. The medical home was introduced in 1967 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most recently, several professional medical organizations joined the AAP to redefine the basic tenets of the Patient Centered Medical Home:

Personal Relationship: Each patient has an ongoing relationship with a personal physician trained to provide first contact, continuous and comprehensive care.

Team Approach: The personal physician leads a team of individuals at the practice level who collectively take responsibility for the ongoing patient care.

Comprehensive: The personal physician is responsible for providing for all the patient’s health care needs at all stages of life or taking responsibility for appropriately arranging care with other qualified professionals.

Coordination: Care is coordinated and integrated across all domains of the health care system, facilitated by registries, information technology, and health information exchange to assure that patients get the indicated care when and where they want it.

Quality and Safety: This includes using electronic medical records and technology to provide decision-support for evidence-based treatments.

Expanded Access: Enhanced access to care available through systems such as open scheduling, expanded hours and new options for communication between patients and physicians.

Added Value: Payment that appropriately recognizes the added value provided to patients who have a Patient-Centered Medical Home.

The medical home is the next step toward true healthcare consumerism. With 45% of the U. S. population having a chronic medical condition accounting for $3 out of every $4 spent on healthcare, coordinated care delivery supported by a team-oriented medical management plan-of-action is a direction worth pursuing.

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