With health care reform on the horizon, the “medical home” concept is gaining support from more policy makers and health care purchasers every day. But does it offer real promise for improving patient care? What are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting this model, and can it work well for all patients? How can advocates ensure that the “medical home” is used in ways that will improve health outcomes for patients no matter their income and health status?
At this strategic moment when the “medical home” model of care is being tested all across the country, the National Partnership for Women & Families has developed a free toolkit that answers those and other questions, and gives consumers and their advocates the tools to help shape this model of care.
Sometimes referred to as a “patient-centered medical home,” the medical home is a medical office, health center or clinic that assigns a team of health professionals to offer personalized, coordinated, comprehensive primary health care to each patient. At its best, a medical home care team will improve patients’ access to primary and preventive care, coordinate patients’ care across different providers and settings, and help patients and their caregivers manage health conditions and make the best possible decisions about their treatment.
At least 13 state Medicaid programs are offering medical homes to enrollees. Several major employers and private insurers are initiating medical home pilots. The Medicare program is launching medical home demonstration projects in at least eight states this year.
“The medical home has the potential to improve the quality of care patients receive,” said National Partnership President Debra L. Ness. “At its best, this new model should deliver care that is better coordinated, more responsive to patients’ individual needs, and more consistent with patients’ culture and language preferences. It should help improve quality, diminish disparities, reduce medical errors and make better use of our health care dollars. But there is no guarantee that the medical home will be designed in a way that truly moves us to more patient-centered care if patients and their advocates are not involved in its development and implementation. We encourage state and local advocates to get involved in these initiatives in their communities. With so much activity, there is no time to waste.”
Developed in collaboration with state and national consumer advocates, the National Partnership’s new toolkit includes a brochure for patients and consumers on the medical home, as well as three fact sheets:
Understanding the Medical Home;
How Consumer Advocates Can Get Involved, Steps You Can Take to Ensure the Medical Home is Patient-Centered; and
Why Consumer Advocates Should Get Involved, Ensuring that the Medical Home is Patient-Centered.
The new toolkit is available online at www.nationalpartnership.org/medicalhome. It was developed with generous support from the WellPoint Foundation, which is supporting consumer advocacy to ensure that medical homes live up to their potential to improve health outcomes for all patients.