Decoding the ACA: What’s a Patient-Centered Medical Home?

Are you increasingly frustrated with having to attend multiple medical appointments to receive a single answer about your medical care? How annoyed are you when you realize that the answer or suggestion provided by your primary care physician does not have your unique needs and values in mind? What about when you’re discharged from the hospital and you feel helpless and lost in the follow-up care upon discharge? One of the key aspects of the Affordable Care Act seeks to resolve these issues—and this begins with the patient-centered medical home.

Here are some things you should know about patient-centered medical homes:

  • It’s not a “home,” a nursing home, or any place that you live. The term home is used to indicate the comprehensive nature of the care you will receive with your best interests and specific needs in mind.
  • It is not hard to find! You can see if your current family medicine or internal medicine physician is a recognized and credentialed patient-centered medical home here. There are more than 774 credentialed primary care/family medicine medical homes in Pennsylvania, including Jefferson Family Medicine Associates, part of the Jefferson Health System alongside Magee Rehab.
  • It requires nothing extra from you! You do not pay a different co-pay or a membership to be part of a medical home. The medical home has been created for you—the patient—and all primary care providers seek to serve you more efficiently with less bureaucratic red-tape!

This is what makes the patient-centered medical home unique:

  • Coordinated Care: All of the members of your medical team are under one roof—your physician, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers, educators, and care coordinators. This team is not only here to take care of your immediate aches, pains and ailments, but also work with you in creating a prevention and wellness plan, and any treatment you require for chronic conditions.
  • Patient-Centered: YOU are the primary focus of it all! This is a relationship-based system, where medical providers want your care and treatment to be specific to your unique needs, values and preferences. Treatments are not PUSHED on you—it is a collaboration with your medical team for what is best for your whole being. Care plans are also created, meaning that care coordinators (or case managers) help to navigate the medical system seamlessly.
  • Home Base: How helpless have you felt in the past when you are discharged from the hospital or inpatient rehab and you feel like you do not know what to do next? Well, the medical home seeks to be your “home base,” the team that can help coordinate care across health systems, including acute care, home care, specialty hospitals, and community support systems. They look to build and foster clear and concise communication system among these entities to make your transition from hospital to home that much easier.
  • Accessible Services: It is super easy to make appointments within the medical home. Most medical homes will schedule you to see a physician within 48 hours of you calling, with flexible hours from evenings to weekends! What this means: shorter waiting times for urgent medical needs (without having to go to the ER for basic sickness/ailments), and more access to physicians.

Next time that you go see your primary care, family medicine or internal medicine physician, ask them if they are part of a patient-centered medical home. (Your medical specialists, such as physiatrists, surgeons or neurologists, are not eligible to be part of the patient centered medical home.) Check out http://recognition.ncqa.org/ to search for the patient-centered medical homes in your state!

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