One issue that comes up time and again when we talk about national health care is the quality of care provided by primary physicians. We heard about this issue frequently as the health care reform bill went through Congress, and we continue to hear about it today, although few are sure what is really being done to improve primary care. While this issue may seem unrelated to long-term health care, the truth is that the types of health care we receive early on has a significant impact on the types of health care we may require later in life. So while choosing a primary physician does not equate to applying for Arizona Medicaid, there is definitely a link between the two.
Interestingly, one of the changes that are underway in the health care system is a push towards patient-centered medical homes. This certainly sounds like the type of care facility we would expect to hear about in the long-term care world of ALTCS/Medicaid, but it is actually something much broader. A patient-centered medical home is not a home in the true sense of the word, but it is a relatively new method of organizing a primary physician’s office. This type of arrangement does away with paper-based medical records, and more importantly provides a team-based approach to health care.
While we are yet to see how patient-centered medical homes will play out, they seem to be promising in many regards. If doctors, clinicians, nurses and specialists collaborate as a team, there is great opportunity to increase not only efficiency, but also quality of care. We need look no further than some of the skilled nursing facilities around the valley to see the benefits that teamwork among medical professionals can provide. Of course, patients will not reside at their primary physician’s facility, but these arrangements do provide potential for greater accessibility and responsiveness. Much of these benefits are yet to be realized, and remain primarily in theory only, but success seems promising if we follow through with implementation of these ideas.