Patient communications is at the core of any PCMH program, and threatens to be either a limiting factor or a catalyst for its succcess.
Steven Wilkins is the author of Mind the Gap, a blog dedicated to the communications gap between health care providers and patients who rely on them. Like the Subway term, "Mind the Gap" is a warning intended to make health care providers aware of the consequences of poor communications and how to avoid them. Steven's most recent post Patient Centered Medical Homes Need to be More Patient Centric hits on this critical issue that, if not proactively managed by providers, will assure the failure of Patient Centered Medical Home models.
As Wilkins reports, many of the early PCMH programs have demonstrated early success with measures such as hospitalization rates and total cost of care improving markedly. Even quality scores have improved under many of these programs. That's all good, right? Sure it is. However, as Wilkins explains and many of these programs have illustrated, the previous models were so bad that these early improvements may just be the easiest "low hanging fruit." Either way, eating the low hanging fruit first nakes sense. So, these early PCMH programs are probably a great start with tremendous room for improvement available. The mandate to both scale PCMH models and continuously improve them is what drives Wilkins and others like him to challenge the model even in the face of early success.
In order for the model to proliferate, achieve scale, and continue to improve, patients must feel fully engaged and respected. Traditional physician led models are very paternal, describes Wilkins. Dr. J. Hunter Young of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ankota's Chief Medical Officer agrees, "Whether its using better techniques to ask questions of patients or to communicate information with them, health care providers have to get better. Better communication improves health, we know that," says Dr. Young, adding, "Communications with patients are not where they need to be and seem to have been ignored in PCMH models." Dr. Young goes on to explain that approaches such as the teach back method and others, while effective, are not consistently applied. Just as there are protocols for care according to disease, there needs to be protocols for communication with patients and family members that are suited to the audience and circumstances.
Patient Centered Medical Home programs must also focus on patient communications using methods that have been proven effective, and must be managed for consistency. Simply leaving it to the health care providers only perpetuates a model that doesn't work well in the first place, and will certainly limit the success of PCMH programs everywhere.
To read Steven Wilkins article on Mind the Gap simply click here. To learn more about how Ankota improves communications and coordinates providers in Patient Centered Medical Home programs, click here