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Making Medical Homes Self-Sustaining

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, August 1, 2011

Because the patient-centered medical home is such an important part of the future of healthcare, this week and next week I'm going to take a look at two Maine patient-centered medical home pilot programs that are approaching this task and some of the results they are finding.

First up is Southern Maine Medical Center (SMMC) PrimeCare Physicians in Biddeford, ME, a multi-specialty group practice started in 1996 with over 40 physicians. The organization is also part of the 150-bed Southern Maine Medical Center. The practice's overarching goal is to preserve the quality of the personal relationship between patient and doctor. To that end, it decided to join the Maine Patient Centered Medical Home Pilot in 2008 and after being accepted got the program off the ground in 2009.

"It is in our plan that we achieve [NCQA] certification and that all our primary care offices are patient-centered medical homes," said Vicki Lyons, vice president of physician services for SMMC PrimeCare Physicians.

Using the existing staff, the practice, which serves 8,900 patients, formed small leadership teams to assess which areas to tackle. First on the list for improvement was patient access and communication. SMMC wanted to create a practice where patients who asked to be seen immediately, could be seen the same day.

The team started by measuring where the practice was in terms of access—a 12-15-day period was common—and brainstorming on how to improve it. Lyons says by eliminating structured scheduling templates and creating flexible templates and contingency scheduling plans, they were able to significantly reduce how long it took for a patient to be seen.

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