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Home Sweet (Medical) Home

If you’re in excellent health, your medical care may entail little more than a yearly wellness checkup. But if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or depression, your access to consistent, comprehensive care may feel increasingly important in America’s fragmented health care system. 

Fortunately, many primary care and family medicine practices are adopting an approach known as a “medical home” or “patient centered medical home” that can help you coordinate the complexities of your care. Here’s how it works and how it could benefit you.

What is a medical home?
A medical home revolves around a partnership between the patient and their primary care provider. The primary care provider is the point person who cares for and guides the patient in getting the medical care and support they need and in a manner they understand. 

Behind the scenes, professional members of a medical home work as a team to ensure each patient gets continuous and comprehensive care. Team members may include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, medical assistants, and other office staff. They help coordinate patient care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and specialists’ offices. 

How is a medical home different from regular medical care? 

Patient-centered medical homes take a whole-person approach. The primary care provider is responsible for coordinating all the person’s health care needs. That includes acute and chronic care, preventive care, and end-of-life care. 

By taking on the coordination of care and treatment, this approach aims to reduce the risk that health problems will worsen and require hospitalization. 

Let’s say, for instance, that a person is diagnosed with cancer. Instead of setting the patient loose to find a specialist and make his or her own appointments, a medical home team can schedule the visit, prepare the patient for the appointment, and follow up to make sure the patient and the primary care doctor receive test  results and treatment recommendations.

How do I find a medical home?
Medical providers at Barton Primary Care in Stateline, Nevada, and Barton Community Health Center in South Lake Tahoe, California, received National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition. Barton Family Medicine in South Lake Tahoe is currently applying for the same recognition. They have all agreed on a set of key principles of patient-centered practices, including:

  • Evidence-based medicine and decision making tools will guide treatment plans and protocols.
  • Patients are actively involved in decisions affecting their health and care.
  • Physicians’ practices will work on behalf of their patients to ensure they attain optimal, patient-centered outcomes.
  • Team members who provide care are compassionate partners to patients and their families.
  • Medical homes will provide easier access to care through open scheduling, expanded hours, and increased options for communication between patients, their doctors, and support staff.
Why else is a medical home important?
It’s no secret that health care costs are on the rise—especially for those with chronic conditions. People with chronic and mental health conditions account for more than 90% of the nation’s health care costs. Research shows that using the medical home model improves the care experience while reducing the number of medical appointments and lowering overall costs. 

Dr. Paul Rork is the medical director of outpatient quality at Barton Health. It’s important to schedule a wellness visit with your primary care provider annually. If you do not have a primary care provider, go to BartonHealth.org/PrimaryCare to learn more about primary care services in the Lake Tahoe community and the importance of having a go-to partner for your care.