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New Via Christi care model earns national recognition

Three Ascension Medical Group patient-centered medical home pilot sites have achieved Level 3 recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

The Ascension Medical Group in Newton, Ascension Medical Group Via Christi on West 21st and Ascension Medical Group at 21st and Reflection Ridge received three-year designations as Level 3 PCMH facilities last month.

NCQA’s PCMH recognition assessment is one of the most widely used national quality evaluation and recognition programs. Level 3 is the highest recognition that it awards. 

“Recognition of the medical homes is important because it gives more than 100 clinicians and staff members validation of their incredibly hard work over the last 2½ to 3 years,” said Terry L. Mills, MD, who practices at the Newton clinic and has overseen the pilot project. “They have been crucial in transforming these clinics from typical practices to high-functioning medical homes.”

The medical home approach, which is being expanded throughout Via Christi, provides patients with more coordinated medical care, increased access to preventive services and better management of chronic diseases. Primary care physicians like Dr. Mills lead care teams that include advanced practice professionals, care coordinators and clinical pharmacists to help patients better manage chronic illnesses.

Via Christi’s PCMH model has produced notable results. The annual cost of care for patients in the pilot project has been lowered by 11.9 percent. Patients’ avoidable emergency room visits have been reduced by 31.5 percent. Inpatient hospital costs have been cut by 17.3 percent.

The three clinics are now listed on ncqa.org as PCMH-recognized and within the next month will receive official certificates denoting their three-year recognition.

“It supports our goals for population health and the quality outcomes we’ve demonstrated to date are outstanding,” said Jack Shellito, MD, Ascension Medical Group chief medical officer.

In achieving NCQA recognition, the clinics met required elements in six standard categories: Enhance Access and Continuity; Identify and Manage Patient Populations; Plan and Manage Care; Provide Self-Care Support and Community Resources; Track and Coordinate Care; and Measure and Improve Performance. Each category included a must-pass element, such as access during office hours, referral tracking and follow-up.

The PCMH model requires changing practice processes to become more patient-centered in each of these areas. The pilot sites made strides toward these objectives in many ways, like adding care coordinators to manage patients’ transitional care, sharing a pharmacist trained in outpatient care, establishing patient advisory councils and relocating patient service representatives in the clinics to better connect with care teams.

“These have helped us in meeting that triple aim of quality — increasing patient satisfaction, reducing the cost of care and improving the health of populations,” said Pam Copper, branch manager at the Newton clinic. “A fourth part of that is to improve the satisfaction of clinicians, to assure them that they’re taking care of their patients. I feel like we are doing that.”

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