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Good for You: Subtle Changes in Your Doctor’s Office Are Improving Care

You might not have noticed it, but primary care doctors in Michigan have been changing the way they do things.  Over the last 10 years, Michigan primary care practices have been moving to a more patient-focused model of care called a Patient-Centered Medical Home.

In a Patient-Centered Medical Home, or PCMH, your doctor leads a team of health care professionals who focus on your individual care needs. You and your doctor discuss your health goals, and together you’ll design a unique plan of care just for you.

The PCMH model might not sound drastically different at the outset, but behind the scenes, primary care practices have been making a lot of structural, technological and process changes that improve your experience as a patient.

In fact, for more than 10 years, primary care practices (internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics) across the state have been collaborating with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to transform their practices and earn PCMH designation. Over the years, the number of practices earning PCMH designation has grown, and now there are just over 4,700 physicians in nearly 1,740 PCMH-designated primary care practices across Michigan.

PCMH-designated physicians, compared to non-designated practices, have a 24% lower rate of adult patients seeking Emergency Room care, 28% lower rate of pediatric patients vising the ER, and a 38% lower rate of adult patients being hospitalized. This is because patients are getting necessary care from their doctor’s office, before conditions escalate to a point where more expensive care is needed.

So how will you recognize a when a doctor’s office is using the patient-centered model? Here are five telltale signs:

  1. They ask about your family, if you’ve been feeling down, and if everything is OK at home.

You might think your doctor is just being friendly. But there’s a real purpose behind the small talk. Your PCMH team considers all physical, behavioral and social factors that affect your health. They also look at what might be barriers to care, such as transportation challenges or lack of social support, and they’ll help connect you to services so you can get the care you need.

  1. They send reminders or contact you when it’s time for a test or health screening.

Your PCMH care team pays attention to your whole health and works hard at keeping you healthy. So, they let you know when you need a cancer screening, a flu shot, a follow-up test or an annual exam. This preventive care can detect any conditions in their earliest, most treatable phases.

  1. They coordinate with your specialists or other care providers and follow up with you to manage your care.

Your PCMH team acts as your health navigator. If you see any specialists, your PCMH team will work with them to get your test results and keep track of your medications. They’ll alert others on your care team if they see duplication and can make sure all of your care and prescriptions work together the right way.

  1. Someone on the PCMH team is available at all hours, which can save you from a visit to the ER.

 Sometimes you get sick or have a medical question after standard office hours. Often, a PCMH office will have appointments available before work, in the evenings or on a Saturday. Usually, there’s someone on-call too. So if you’re concerned late at night, you can connect with someone who can access your medical history and tell you if your situation can wait to be seen in the office the next day, or whether you need to seek emergency care.

  1. They teach you how to manage your condition, which prevents hospital stays and ER visits.

Your PCMH team is invested in your health. They teach you how to take care of any chronic issues, like diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure, so you can stay healthy and prevent issues from getting to the point where you need more expensive or urgent medical care.

In Michigan, Blue Cross-designated Patient-Centered Medical Home practices are located in nearly every Michigan county. Chances are, if you live in Michigan, you have access to a PCMH office. To find one close to you, use the Find a Doctor button on bcbsm.com.

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About the Author: Dr. Amy McKenzie M.D. is a medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Photo credit: kupicoo

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