PINEHURST — How can your doctor help you prevent hospital stays, emergency room visits and even reduce the costs of your healthcare? It takes teamwork, according to national research. And more than a dozen FirstHealth Family Medicine and Internal Medicine clinics have recently earned national recognition for their efforts to make sure their patients get these and other important health benefits.
Several FirstHealth clinics throughout the region are now affirmed as “Patient-Centered Medical Homes,” a designation of the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
“Research shows that paying close attention to details like those measured by the NCQA can improve patients’ health and their satisfaction with their care,” said Dan Barnes, D.O., president of FirstHealth Physician Group. “We now have 14 clinics that have gone through this voluntary process. We’re focusing on improving quality, and the NCQA recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home provides a way to demonstrate our successes.”
The “patient-centered medical home” model of care emphasizes that the majority of a patient’s care is within one clinic or practice, and that providers have put specific steps in place to coordinate care with any specialists you need. Some of these steps include making sure that patients have same-day appointments if they are sick, receive reminders about important health issues or tests they might need, and have follow-up care after any hospital stay, for example.
“FirstHealth’s Family Medicine in Troy was the first to earn this recognition,” says Beth Morgan, a regional director of operations with FirstHealth Physician Group. “Since then, our team of about 130 providers and office staff at 13 other locations put in the work to become a patient-centered medical home, as well.”
Goals for each of these patient-centered medical homes follow the national guidelines of the NCQA. Among them are a focus on preventive services, like vaccines; better care for patients who have several chronic health conditions; and closely coordinating care with specialists that are in different locations besides the patient’s “home” clinic.
At the FirstHealth clinics that are now recognized as patient-centered-medical homes, additional staff incudes “case managers” for patients who have multiple or complex health issues. These nurses help coordinate the patient’s care and even make follow-up phone calls to them between visits.
“Becoming a patient-centered medical home was a big effort, and we are already seeing benefits,” says Morgan.
For example, by reviewing patient data, staff is tracking which patients have received certain types of care, and which have not. So if someone missed having a mammogram or colonoscopy, they were able to send reminder letters to them, Morgan says. If a patient has a test scheduled and the office does not get the results, staff circles back to find out why.
“In these ways, we are putting the patient at the center of everything we do,” said Barnes. “We’re closing the loop on patients’ referrals to other specialists and making sure they get important testing. These efforts help us make sure patients don’t have gaps in care.”
In addition to earning the badge of “Patient-Centered Medical Home,” 13 FirstHealth clinics also earned the highest recognition, Level 3. These clinics are:
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Biscoe
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Candor
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Ellerbe
• FirstHealth Primary Care and Cardiology, Raeford
• FirstHealth Internal Medicine, Pinehurst
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Raeford
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Robbins
• FirstHealth Family Medicine/Carolina Family Medicine, Rockingham
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Rockingham
• FirstHealth Internal Medicine, Rockingham
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Seven Lakes
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Vass
• FirstHealth Family Medicine, Whispering Pines
NCQA is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. The organization accredits and certifies a wide range of health care organizations. It also recognizes clinicians and practices in key areas of performance. NCQA is committed to providing health care quality information for consumers, purchasers, health care providers and researchers.