New patient-centered medical home standards align with MU

By Molly Merrill
09:42 AM

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) released new standards Monday for its Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program, which reinforce federal meaningful use incentives for primary care practices to adopt health information technology.

The PCMH, a model of care emphasizing care coordination and communication, has seen a 3,400 percent increase in recognized clinicians and a 5,200 percent increase in recognized sites since 2008. Currently, almost 7,700 clinicians at more than 1,500 sites across America used NCQA standards as a roadmap to become high-quality primary care practices and receive NCQA recognition as PCMHs.

[Read more about what is fueling the PCMH: New 'world order' coming for docs.]

Officials say the release of NCQA's new standards – PCMH 2011 – marks the debut of the next generation of the NCQA recognition program that designates high-quality primary care practices as patient-centered medical homes.

PCMH 2011 directs practices to organize care according to patients' preferences and needs. Standards emphasize access to care during and after office hours, and managing care in collaboration with patients and families. Other aspects of patient-centeredness include providing services in patients' preferred languages, helping patients with self-care and facilitating patient access to community resources.

PCMH 2011's emphasis on patient feedback supports what is widely known as the "triple aim": improving quality, containing costs and enhancing patient experience. NCQA is collaborating with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to develop a medical home version of the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Clinician & Group Survey, a widely used evaluation of patient experience. NCQA expects to release CAHPS for medical homes in the second half of 2011. Starting in January 2012, practices may receive additional NCQA distinction by voluntarily reporting patient experience data.

To support patient-centered care for children, PCMH 2011 standards include parental decision making, teen privacy and guardianship. Standards also cover communication between medical facilities about newborns' lab results and guidelines for planning the transition from pediatric to adult care.

"NCQA's new medical home standards will enhance care coordination, clinician and staff satisfaction and primary care quality nationwide, while putting patients in the driver's seat to manage their health," explained Susan Edgman-Levitan, leader of the 22-member advisory committee that helped NCQA create PCMH 2011 and executive director of the Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Federal meaningful use language is embedded in PCMH 2011 evaluation standards, reinforcing incentives for practices to use health information technology to improve quality.

[Read more about how MU is being aligned with PCMHs: Twelve NYC health centers participate in medical home/MU project.]

Officials say the standards' alignment with meaningful use creates a virtuous cycle: practices that meet PCMH 2011 requirements will be well prepared to qualify for meaningful use, and vice versa.

"PCMH 2011 advances the patient-centered medical home as a paragon of 21st-century primary care," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "By emphasizing access, health information technology and partnerships between clinicians and patients to improve health, these new standards raise the bar in defining high-quality care."

Click here to download the 2011 PCMH Standards and Guidelines.