“Doctor’s office; please hold.”
You’ll never hear that when you call me. Never. You’ll also never get an automated answering system (I’m just referring to office hours, of course. Evenings and weekends the phone goes to Google Voice. More on
that below.) We are also in the middle of a communication revolution. There are now so many other ways patients can contact me other than the telephone, the silly thing is almost becoming obsolete. I took amoment the other day just to go through all the various ways patients contact me.
Still the most reliable fallback. Most synchronous form of communication: both parties willing and able to talk in real time. After hours, Google Voice (free) transcribes messages and texts them to my smart phone. As a rule, patients do not call my cell phone, although I’m not shy about giving out the number. Then again, those who have my cell number usually use it for…
At the moment, it’s just a few patients, but I anticipate more and more of them will partake as time goes on. It doesn’t happen very often, and so far it’s never been inappropriate. Med refill requests and pictures of kids’ rashes have been the mainstay so far. I like it. By it’s very nature, the people choosing to text me understand the limitations of synchronicity, ie, they don’t get bent out of shape if I don’t answer them right away, and they understand that it’s just for relatively minor issues. I also use it to communicate simple quick questions to specialists with all the same mutual understandings (minor issues only; response time unimportant).
What comes to mind when you hear the term “medical home?” Perhaps you favor the definition put forth by our government (AHRQ):
The medical home model holds promise as a way to improve health care in America by transforming how primary care is organized and delivered. Building on the work of a large and growing community, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines a medical home not simply as a place but as a model of the organization of primary care that delivers the core functions of primary health care.
1. Comprehensive care
3. Coordinated care
4. Accessible services
5. Quality and Safety.
The presence of these five attributes to care should then constitute a medical home, right? It depends on who you get your definition from.
The term patient-centered has become a serious contender for the most flippantly used term in health care publications and conversations. Of course meaningful use is still #1 on the popularity charts, with ACO quickly moving up, but even meaningful use and ACO are almost always accompanied by patient-centered as a way to add legitimacy and desirability to the constructs.
Even Paul Ryan’s new recipe for fiscal Nirvana is touting patient-centered health care as one of a litany of fictional achievements made possible based on an array of wishful thinking assumptions. But perhaps the most common usage of patient-centered terminology is the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), which is touted as the ultimate patient friendly solution to our health care difficulties. Since PCMH is heavily reliant on Health Information Technology (HIT) to achieve patient-centeredness, and since Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) is being increasingly aligned with this goal, it may behoove us to explore the features and functionality that would qualify an EHR to support a patient-centered approach to health care delivery.
But first, what exactly is patient-centered health care? From reading the NCQA medical home specifications, the Meaningful Use definitions, the HIT suggestions from PCAST and the brand new ACO regulations, all of which assert a patient-centered approach, one would conclude that patient-centered care is made possible by providing all patients with timely electronic access to the entirety of their medical records including lots of patient education, electronically coordinating a multitude of transfers of care, empowering non-physicians to provide most medical care, measuring a bewildering array of health care processes and constantly evaluating and reporting on population metrics, while somehow allowing patients and families to express their wishes regarding the nature of care within the boundaries specified by each proposal. I am excluding the Ryan budget proposal here, since other than having “patient-centered” typed in various spots, there is no reference to actual health care delivery, or what is left of it after most seniors, sick and disabled folks are reduced to begging for medical care. Computers and EHRs can, and to some extent already do, support many of the above activities, but is this truly patient-centered (singular) care, or should we add an “s” and refer to a plurality of patients-centered, or population-centered, care?Continue reading…
The conceptual definition of a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) speaks of a physician directed medical practice, oriented to the whole person, where patients have enhanced access to a personal physician and care is coordinated and integrated focusing on quality and safety, nothing more and nothing less, other than appropriate payment to physicians for all activities.
Since concepts are rarely enough, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) took it upon itself to provide concrete requirements and formal certification for medical practices desirous of being recognized as Patient Centered Medical Homes. The NCQA PCMH definition consists of nine Standards used to score the practice. This is NCQA’s attempt at translating the original PCMH concept into measurable activities and here is where Health Information Technologies (HIT) and EHR in particular, are formally associated with the PCMH concept. Conspicuously absent from the NCQA standard are the “personal physician” and unless you consider the assessment of language barriers sufficient, so is the “whole person orientation”. Most NCQA PCMH elements are geared towards data collection, data analysis, tracking and reporting. Theoretically, you could earn NCQA PCMH designation without an EHR, but the amount of typing, writing, filing and calculating would easily consume your entire day. If you are serious about PCMH designation, you will need an EHR. But which one should you get? Are some technologies better than others for PCMH purposes?Continue reading…