The next big thing: The virtual patient-centered medical home

by Matt Adamson on November 11, 2010

I’m not a gambling man, but I would venture to place a confident bet that the majority of patients in this country have never taken a good look at their personal medical record. If they did, they might be surprised to find the gaps in information that their primary care doctors rely on for their diagnoses, treatment and long term care plans. Lucky for us, and our family healthcare providers, the days of paper files, illegible handwriting, missing lab work and unfilled prescriptions are coming to a close with the advent of healthcare technology and the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH).

 

Not to miss out on a sure thing, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act relies heavily on the increased use of information technology to drastically improve and change the healthcare system. As the healthcare industry works to integrate these technologies into the everyday patient care continuum, it increases the likelihood of creating a healthcare environment of high-quality, cost-effective care. Technology has the ability to streamline administrative and operational efficiencies, stabilize costs, reduce medical errors and waste, improve accessibility and, perhaps most notably to the PCMH care model, enable a true collaboration and sharing of information among healthcare’s many stakeholders, including the patient.

 

The effective deployment of technical solutions could enable any physician practice, regardless of size or patient population, to successfully participate in a PCMH care model by establishing what, in essence, is a virtual medical home. The physician practice would be able to electronically connect with the health plan and other resources to deliver the same advantages of a traditional primary care setting or PCMH, but with significantly less financial investment and administrative overhead. This streamlined access to multi-directional data exchange allows the provider to deftly communicate with pharmacists, labs, nutritionists, specialists and other entities in the healthcare spectrum as if each were located in the same space, while creating for patients an appearance of consistency and seamlessness. The ability to connect in this manner and share tasks across a range of stakeholders inside and outside of the medical home would also generate fertile ground for the creation of Accountable Care Organizations—another delivery model that is a good bet.

 

The increase in analytics technology is the clincher to the success of the virtual medical home approach and to optimizing health outcomes. It will enable virtual medical home participants to create a digital 360-degree view of the patient and to analyze factors such as gaps in care, diet, exercise, and medication adherence. This more inclusive view of a patient’s healthcare needs will enable optimal interventions and more focused plans of care, regardless of whether the patient is receiving care inside or outside of the provider’s office. Imagine being able to automate wellness initiatives within the practice, while simultaneously focusing a coordinated team on those patients with chronic conditions. This shared care planning also fosters a greater collaboration between the care manager within the health plan and the care coordinator at the provider practice. Technology and collaboration truly bring care management closer to the patient where it is likely to be more efficient and effective. In other words, a win, win for all.

 

What do you think? Is healthcare information technology really a sure bet? Will the virtual medical home bring care closer to the patient or create more gaps?

 

We talk more about the PCMH in the first of our new series of e-books called MEDecision Insights. I invite you to download your complimentary copy of “The Patient-Centered Medical Home: The Cornerstone of Healthcare Transformation” and share your thoughts with us today. Get your e-book here: http://www.medecision.com/insightseries.

 

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