August 02, 2009

Patient Centered Medical Home... say what?

One of the key components driving our healthcare debate centers on something called the "Patient Centered Medical Home." In a simplified, beautiful poetic statement it is:
"A continuous relationship with a personal physician coordinating care for both wellness and illness."

At the recent AAFP FM NC (American Academy of Family Physician's National Conference) for Residents and Students that I attended... the speaker Dr. McGeeney said:
People get the concept. People like the idea. It's the NAME that they hate.

I will freely admit, it sounded like just another silly buzzword that's thrown around to me. I do readily subscribe to the concept of a medical home -- and I do want to put my patients first in all respects. These are things that I got excited about planning for my future practice without even realizing what a PCMH is!

One of the commenters at the end of Dr. McGeeney's talk summed up my own sentiments quite nicely. He raised his hand and said "it sounds great and all, but you REALLY have to change the name. No one knows what that means. I get that it's an old concept from 1967, but it needs to change. It sounds like a nursing home to me."

So, I found myself thinking about the CONCEPT.

What does it mean to have a PCMH?
To me, it means having a doctor for life. Someone you can trust. Someone who has known you through thick and thin.
It means having a group of people who work with you. Dietician, exercise trainer, medication manager, physical therapy, diabetes educator, etc... "ancillary services" that deserve a central role in care.

Why don't people get it?
I think Home is a solid object in a lot of people's minds. When you tell them "we are going to give you a medical home" they think of a location, rather than a group of awesome people who are trying to keep them healthy! A funny story is that one of the family medicine residency programs got a phone call from a reporter, asking to see their new medical home. "So, this home. Is it a house? A clinic? What sort of structure is it?" After some forehead slapping in trying to explain that it was just a concept, the director ended up just telling him their address. UGH. PCMH really doesn't lend itself well to a clear definition.

So what's your brilliant solution?!?
I am very biased on this point. I'll say it up front because it is a shameless plug for my specialty of choice.
I propose that we call it Patient-Centered Medical Family.

Think about it.

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