We mentioned Cherokee Health Systems (CHS) in our last blog post because they were one of two health centers honored last week in Washington, D.C, by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) at their 25th Anniversary Gala. CHS, based in Knoxville, TN, was chosen from a pool of hundreds of organizations across the United States which are working toward improving patient care through the implementation of the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, a system of care that emphasizes care coordination and communication among providers. The PCMH model has been shown to result in higher quality care, lower costs of delivering care, and better health outcomes for patients. CHS has been practicing this approach since it was founded in 1960 and is now gaining notice in the media for their integrated model of primary care and behavioral health. HealthLeaders Media focuses on the health center’s approach in a feature article.
“We’re building a mindset of comprehensive care with primary care and behavioral health providers,” Parinda Khatri, PhD, a clinical psychologist and CCO at CHS tells reporter John Commins. “We believe strongly in access. We say there’s no wrong door,” she says. “People can come through the primary care door and they will be asked about their behavioral health status, they will get behavioral health screenings.
She goes on to describe how the therapists are trained to ask if a new patient has a primary care provider. If not, then the goal of CHS is to be that patient’s medical home and stand ready to talk to him or her about health and how they’re functioning in life. If a patient feels they have a behavioral health issue, at the point of care a behaviorist is brought to them. Whether the issue is substance misuse, depression, smoke cessation, stress management — if there is a request for help it is available on site. No navigating a complex healthcare maze of different providers in different places — at CHS it’s all under the same roof and designed to ensure the patient gets the help they need as soon as they need it. Best of all, the providers, whether it is the doctor or therapist, are all communicating with each other about the patient’s needs.
This seems like a common sense approach, unfortunately, it is not a commonplace approach in healthcare — unless of course one happens to visit a Community Health Center.