As a patient, wouldn't it be nice to be able to go to one location, both online and physically, to coordinate all the medical care you might need? If it sounds like the holy grail of healthcare, that description is not far off. In fact, other than inpatient care, which will, of course, still be handled by hospitals, that's the promise of the patient-centered medical home—and primary care physician practices are perhaps best positioned to provide it.
The PCMH begins with primary care and the responsibility of the primary care physician to arrange care with other qualified healthcare professionals. At present, there aren't a lot of perceived benefits to creating one, and there are a lot of costs. But many physician practices have embarked on creating the structures and procedures that constitute a PCMH, and are convinced the concept not only provides better care for patients, but that in the long run, it also reduces costs for the practice, patients, and payers.
The idea of the physician and his or her team as the home base for the patient hinges on their ability to arrange the patient's healthcare needs as seamlessly as possible by seeking partnerships with other providers in helping handle all the problems with patient handoffs that have plagued the healthcare system in the United States. The reason this role is so important is not only for the provision of quality healthcare, but also for the elimination of waste and unnecessary duplication that drive healthcare costs higher each year.
Simeon Schwartz, MD, didn't necessarily have the patient-centered medical home in mind when he and his partners looked for ways to make Purchase, NY-based Westmed Medical Group more efficient, but they had a lot of its principles in mind even then, around 2001. One of the first challenges the 180-physician practice took on was operational efficiency.