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Patients, IT equal partners in enabling medical home model

By Brita Van Fossen, Editorial Assistant

The medical home model for health care provides multiple benefits for patients; namely, more cost effective and intimate care, available from the comfort of their own home. This cost reduction and improvement in care quality is intended to benefit the health care industry as a whole. Despite all of the positive implications, however, the actual implementation has proven difficult because the medical home model depends on health information technology in order to successfully establish and maintain communication between doctors and patients.

The relationship between health IT and the medical home model has handicapped small and medium-sized health care providers especially, since the availability of funding for such practices is limited. A recent study published by Health Affairs shows that smaller practices — those with fewer than 20 physicians — constitute a great majority of the health care available nationally. According to the study, these small and medium sized practices “[are] not using many of the organized care processes of the patient-centered medical home model,” and, as a result there is a generally lower national adoption of the model.

The medical home model necessitates the use of electronic health records that are in accordance with the 2009 HITECH Act and its initiative to encourage the meaningful use of EHRs. The HITECH Act stipulates that practices meeting meaningful use requirements before 2015 can potentially receive financial incentives for doing so.

For small and medium-sized practices, the financial aspect is key — but the importance of a positive relationship with patients likely serves as a more powerful incentive. Since the focus of the medical home model is on better quality care that is more readily available to patients, and this care requires the addition of EHRs and other components of meaningful use, perhaps focusing more on the incentives in terms of relationships will serve as a motivator for enacting change to health IT in small and medium-sized practices.

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