Medical home traits don't alter patient experience

The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) has been touted as a model that can improve primary care and save money. But much to the surprise of researchers at Pennsylvania State University, practices that adopt aspects of medical homes do not achieve a corresponding improvement in patients' experience.

The study, published Thursday in Health Services Research, looked at the relationship between patient experience ratings and the following four PCMH features:

  • having a physician-led practice
  • offering enhanced access to care
  • care coordination and integration
  • quality and safety

Although it's important to note that most of the 393 physician practices involved in the study were not attempting to become PCMHs, their adoption of the four features studied had little effect on patients' opinions of whether physicians gave clear explanations or spent enough time; treatment goal-setting; and phone, mail or email communication outside the office.

Nonetheless, the jury is still out as to whether true medical homes hold the potential to improve patient experience, according to researchers. "There is much work to be done to understand the best way to engage patients and families to improve the experience of care, and how to measure whether indeed the experience has improved," Michael Barr, senior vice president for medical practice, professionalism and quality at the American College of Physicians, told Health Behavior News Service. "If constructed properly, early evidence suggests that PCMH practices should improve quality, reduce costs and enhance patient experiences."

To learn more:
- read the story from Health Behavior News Service
- see the study abstract from Health Services Research