Health Center News

Patients First

PCMH snapshotTo mark the 50th anniversary of the Community Health Center Program we are using the month of May to spotlight the various ways health centers operate as Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH). We found a good example in Colorado, where Peak Vista Community Health Centers has been spotlighted in the journal Health Elevations, published by the Colorado Health Foundation.

The article, authored by Kelly Dwyer, describes how each morning “small teams of primary care doctors, nurses, medical aides, behavioral therapists, and care managers” gather to discuss which patients are coming in and review their reports and check off which lab or diagnostic tests need to happen. “This is integrated care at work,”  writes Dwyer. “Peak Vista is defying perceptions of beleaguered clinics scrambling to merely keep up with demand and is instead leading the integration revolution through better design.”

We admit we’ve written about Peak Vista before on this blog when they received PCMH recognition. We are writing about them again because their work demonstrates how patients experience the “patients first” approach of PCMH. For instance, Dwyer writes:

A fair share of Peak Vista’s patients and their families miss work without pay to get to the doctor’s office. Some ride the bus to get there, which makes it convenient to schedule back-to-back visits with the dentist and pediatrician, for example.  A team-based approach to care allows primary care providers to intervene the moment they recognize a behavioral or dental issue. “When you get emotional outpouring from a patient, you have a way to say, ‘I can help with that,’” said pediatrician Barbara Divish, MD, who makes frequent “warm handoffs” to a pediatric psychologist on-site. Peak Vista’s behavioral care providers typically spend 10 to 15 minutes with patients on those handoff visits, then schedule longer follow-up visits if needed. Patients are more likely to see a dentist or therapist on the spot than they are to follow through on a referral at a different office and possibly weeks later.

The health center has also invested in areas that improve efficiency, as well as the patient experience, such a electronic health records and care coordination, strategic changes that has reduced wait systems and enrolled people into insurance coverage.   Staffing investments also paved the way for care teams that help patients and providers “connect what is disconnected.” For instance, the staff at Peak Vista also recognized that parents with multiple children may have difficulties accessing care, especially when they can’t find a baby-sitter.  Solution?  Open a drop-in child care room for healthy siblings, a move which cut the health center’s no-show rate.

Every day health centers prove in communities that a system of care exists where innovation is shaped around the patient experience and geared toward better outcomes.  Tell us how your health center is making patients first  and we’ll write about it on this blog.