Pine Bluff Family Medical Center at UAMS South Central Earns Highest Patient-Centered Status

By Ben Boulden

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) awarded Level III, the highest level patient-centered medical home (PCMH) recognition, to the Pine Bluff Family Medical Center after its Level III assessment.

UAMS South Central is a regional center of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

“UAMS South Central has always led the way in implementing the PCMH model,” said Mark Mengel, M.D., UAMS vice chancellor for regional programs. “A lot of credit goes to the collaborative style of Mark Deal, its director, and his team’s passion and skill in implementing the many tasks associated with the PCMH model, and the residents’ and faculty’s willingness to support this change.”

The patient-centered medical home creates partnerships between individual patients, their physicians and the patient’s family. Care is facilitated by registries, information technology and health information exchange, so patients get the indicated care when and where they need and want it.

“We are gratified to have received this recognition from the NCQA as a level III PCMH,” said Mark Deal, director of UAMS South Central. “This goal was accomplished through a team effort that will benefit our patients. Not only will we better manage our chronically ill patients, we plan to provide proactive services to help our patients avoid or delay the onset of illness through education and wellness efforts. This work will continue as we integrate educational and the social sciences into our comprehensive care model.”

In 2012, several of the regional family medical centers, including the Pine Bluff center, earned Level II status. UAMS spent $6-$8 million to hire additional personnel and purchase information technology to better integrate patient care at the regional centers. New software was used to create a disease registry and standardize data entry for electronic medical records.

The patient-centered medical home for patients also means same-day appointments, quickly answered telephone calls, an on-call resident they can reach after hours and on weekends, and overall improved care coordination. With the PCMH model, more frequent communication takes place outside the exam room between each patient and each center’s physicians and staff. Between visits, more is done to monitor a patient’s condition and help the patient stay on a treatment plan.

In addition to improving patient outcomes, the model promises to cut costs by reducing the need for hospitalization or emergency room care. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seven medical home demonstration projects at primary care practices reported a 6 percent to 40 percent reduction in hospitalizations, a 7 percent to 29 percent decline in emergency room visits and a savings of $71-$640 per patient.

Nationally, about a quarter of the primary care practices have adopted the patient-centered medical home model.

Mengel said the other UAMS regional centers are on track to achieve Level III —the highest level of accreditation — later this year.

The NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care. It has worked with leading national medical organizations like the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians to develop PCMH recognition standards.