Medical home: Better clinical care, better physicians

Deborah Satterfield, M.D.
Family medicine physician; medical director,
Providence Medical Group-Gateway

All of us as physicians want to provide the best possible care for our patients. Ultimately, we want to provide excellent care that goes beyond just addressing an immediate health issue.

And from a personal perspective, we want to go home at a reasonable hour every night to see our families and enjoy the things that reenergize us.

Is this some sort of unattainable physician utopia? Happily, no. The solution lies in the new model of care known as the medical home, a team-based, coordinated approach to care that involves a range of health care experts and the patient.

Here at PMG-Gateway, as well as at other PMG clinics in Oregon and southwest Washington, we’re in the process of implementing a medical home model.  

Strategies for improving care
Moving to this new model translates into change for everyone on our health care team. Instead of being “top down” from a physician, health care is provided by a skilled team of experts. Key components include:

  • Chart scrubbing. Now when I go into a patient room, I have a chart that’s been “scrubbed” ahead of time by a clinical care coordinator. This allows physicians to provide more preventive care and better chronic disease management.
  • Better communication. We have daily “huddles” that allow us to plan ahead for our day, look at our patient schedule and talk about things before they become an issue.
  • One-touch philosophy. This means having as few “touches” as possible when it comes to getting answers for our patients. Instead of a patient request being routed through a trail of confusing and time-consuming messages, the goal now is simplicity. Get the answer right away and share it with the patient.

Changing our culture
All of this change takes some getting used to. We’ve altered the way we do many things in the clinic, even down to where we sit. Instead of having a private office, I now share space with three other experts on my team. When patients call with a question, they often get an automatic consult because we discuss the issue right then and there. I’ve lost some privacy, but I find that we talk about medicine a lot more.

Because the day runs much more smoothly, I get to go home at 6 o’clock every day. I feel less overwhelmed, and I don’t have a pile of emails and phone calls to take care of. My work is done.

The medical home model means adjusting to change – no doubt about it. But these changes translate into better care for those we serve.