As healthcare costs continue to increase and the health of this nation’s citizens declines, many are recognizing that good health comes not only from quality medical care but often, stopping disease before it even starts. This focus on prevention – often referred to as “wellness” – is being embraced in all areas of healthcare as we are finally recognizing that it will take a collective effort by everyone – healthcare institutions, businesses, educators, government and communities – to create a healthier nation.
One strategy that is gaining attention is the concept of a “Primary Care Medical Home.” According to Joint Principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home, a report released by the largest primary care physician organizations in the United States, a primary care medical home (PC-MH) is “an approach to providing comprehensive primary care for children, youth and adults… in a health care setting that facilitates partnerships between individual patients, and their personal physicians, and when appropriate, the patient’s family.”
This concept is based on a number of principles including care provided by a personal physician who leads a team who are collectively responsible for providing for all a person’s health care needs. PC-MH adopts a “whole person orientation” – meaning physicians and providers care for all stages of life: acute care, chronic care, preventive services, and end of life care. Quality, safety and enhanced access are also hallmarks of this approach.
This new approach to primary care appears to be working. According to a report by the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Buffalo, peer-reviewed studies show “improved quality, reduced errors, and increased satisfaction when patients identify with a primary care medical home.” These types of homes are even featured in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010 – which signifies a significant focus on the advancement of PC-MHs.
It is heartening to note this increased attention on complete care. Too many people are bound by the structure of traditional healthcare – waiting until disease becomes apparent and relying on a professional to prescribe treatment. We can no longer be merely reactive. We need to embrace this patient-centered medical home model, in which wellness is the priority, care is comprehensive and collaboration is key.