RiverStone Health clinics in Billings, Bridger, Joliet and Worden have received a national seal of quality.
Patients should expect improved access, better health outcomes, enhanced communication and greater satisfaction.
The four clinics have received national recognition for transforming the way they deliver care. They are revolutionizing health care into “what patients want it to be.”
The clinics have been recognized for the Patient-Centered Medical Home 2011 program by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. The recognition is equivalent to being accredited by the Joint Commission, also an independent, not-for-profit organization. NCQA began recognizing health care facilities in 2008.
The announcement was made during a news conference Wednesday morning.
Five health care facilities in the state have received the recognition; the other is Partnership Health Center in Missoula.
A medical home can be as small as a partnership of two physicians or like one of the the state's largest hospitals, which has more than 60 primary-care physicians.
As of Feb. 20, there were 5,301 health care organizations in the country that have earned the recognition.
The idea behind the Patient-Centered Medical Home is to improve the care and service that patients receive in a way that improves health outcomes, increases overall efficiency and reduces health care costs. PCHM is built upon a team-based approach to coordinated patient care. Teams are led by a physician, a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner.
The goal is to proactively anticipate patients' needs while involving patients more in planning and coordinating the care they receive, said John Felton, president and CEO of RiverStone Health. The model also reduces expensive, unnecessary trips to the hospital and emergency room.
In the PCMH model, care moves from being the sole responsibility of the patient to a mutual and shared responsibility both while the patient is in the office and outside.
The medical home agrees to manage its patients, not only seeing them when they are ill but also making sure they are getting proper preventive treatment, such as cancer screenings and chronic disease management.
“In the patient-centered medical home, you’re our patient all of the time,” Felton said.
Patients spend so little time in a physician’s office, on average 18 to 20 minutes, that physicians are missing opportunities to improve their patient’s health, said Dr. Megan Littlefield, medical director of RiverStone Health Clinic. It means knowing which patients are overdue for mammograms and actively sending them letters. At RiverStone, where about 60 percent of the patients are uninsured, the PCMH concept means linking them with community resources they might need.
“It’s good primary care,” Littlefield said. “Ultimately we do think it’s going to save money. Health outcomes are better. Health care quality is better. It is an investment for the future. By changing the model of care, we become more efficient.”
Access to health care is also improved. At other clinics in Billings, new patients often must wait several months for an appointment, Littlefield said. RiverStone has open access scheduling so that new patients are “almost guaranteed” to score same-day appointments.
“It’s what works for the patient, not what works for our schedule,” she said.
The PCMH “raises the bar” in defining quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and partnerships between clinicians and patients, said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane.
Gov. Steve Bullock said PCMHs are gaining momentum and commended RiverStone for "leading the way" for primary-care medical clinics across the state.
"By undertaking this rigorous recognition process, you have demonstrated a commitment to access, affordability and accountability," Bullock wrote in a letter to Felton.
Last month, hospitals, physicians, health insurers and health clinics turned out in force at the state Capitol to support a bill encouraging PCMHs. Senate Bill 84, would set up a commission to oversee standards for the new practice model and protect them from antitrust lawsuits.
The patient-centered model has been evolving at RiverStone Health Clinic for the past three years and was ratcheted up in the last 18 months to earn the recognition.
To achieve recognition, which is valid for three years, RiverStone Health Clinic demonstrated the ability to meet standards set by the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Association.