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Department of Family & Community Medicine Leads Education Effort for State's Patient-Centered Medical Home Program

Thursday, August 04, 2011

 Dr. Khanna is the program director for the Maryland Learning Collaborative.

Pilot Project Aims to Implement New Care Model to Bring Down Health Care Costs

A team from the University of Maryland Department of Family and Community Medicine will lead education and training for Maryland’s Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program, a pilot project to examine if a new patient care structure can improve care and bring down health care costs. The educational training program, called the Maryland Learning Collaborative (MLC), is comprised of physicians, nurses and representatives from the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland Health Care Commission, Community Health Resource Commission and others. The MLC will educate, train and support primary care practices selected to participate in the Maryland Multi-payer PCMH program. 

The Medical Home concept comes from the idea that patients have a home base for health care and decisions about treatment. This “home” is built on the foundation of an ongoing relationship with a personal physician who cares for patients’ medical needs throughout their lives, including coordinating care with specialists, hospitals and home health care.  Maryland’s three-year PCMH pilot program will enroll 55 primary care practices across the state, which will receive training and support from the MLC as they adopt the best practices of the PCMH model. These include expanded use of electronic health records and specific guidelines for prescriptions, follow-up care and managing patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“At the University of Maryland Department of Family and Community Medicine, we are very excited to be taking a leading role in the Maryland Multi-payer Patient Centered Medical Home Pilot Project. The Maryland Learning Collaborative brings together representatives from many diverse perspectives, including patients, academics and representatives from government, industry and the community, and it will be the guiding force in this project, making sure these primary care practices meet the standards to be a Patient Centered Medical Home,” says Niharika Khanna, MD, associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Khanna is the program director for the Maryland Learning Collaborative of the PCMH pilot project.

The MLC will design ways for these physicians’ offices to implement the best practice concepts of a Patient Centered Medical Home, which range from expanded clinic hours to better communication with patients through telephone and e-mail. Specially trained coaches from the collaborative will travel to primary care offices throughout the state to help them implement PCHM best practices. They will also evaluate the primary care practices and report to the state on the quality of care the patients receive and cost savings.

“The Maryland Learning Collaborative is a true collaboration, harnessing the knowledge and dedication of health care professionals from across the state. Led by the University of Maryland Department of Family and Community Medicine, the members of the MLC are committed to doing all they can to support the practices in the PCMH program and make it a success,” says Ben Steffen, acting executive director of the Maryland Health Care Commission and director of Maryland’s PCMH program.

Along with the practice visits by the coaches, the Learning Collaborative will offer meetings, webinars, and online and telephone consultations to the practices in the program. There will also be regional meetings for physicians to share their experiences with their peers and hear feedback on what is working well and what challenges they are facing. The MLC will offer information technology (IT) support for the practices because optimal use of electronic health records and IT is a key component of the PCMH concept.

 “While the Patient Centered Medical Home model looks to improve efficiencies and reduce costs, we must remember that the individual patient is always at the heart of any plan. The primary care doctor and the patient work in partnership, along with the patient’s family, caregivers and community, to ensure that the patient receives the best care possible, including working together on strategies for prevention. The primary care doctor coordinates the team of health care professionals, no matter if the patient is being treated in a hospital or an out patient setting, such as a doctor’s office,” explains David Stewart, MD, a leader of PCMH Learning Collaborative and chairman of family and community medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“The Patient Centered Medical Home is a promising new approach to patient care; and the University of Maryland Department of Family and Community Medicine is an ideal choice to lead the Learning Collaborative for this important initiative. These faculty members are leaders in the areas of primary care medicine and medical education, and they are committed to improving care for their patients and all the other citizens of Maryland,” says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Dr. Khanna adds, “We are delighted to be leading an initiative that supports the upcoming reforms that will bring multitudes of Marylanders into health care for the first time. From an academic standpoint, we are also very interested to see which training and teaching methods work best to help these physician offices implement the principles of the Patient Centered Medical Home.”

With funding support from the Community Health Resources Commission, the Maryland Learning Collaborative brings together a diverse group of health care professionals. There are representatives from Johns Hopkins University, the state of Maryland, Medicaid, insurance companies, Med Chi, state medical societies and community practices. The group will also have representatives from several other University of Maryland schools such as the School of Nursing, School of Social Work, School of Pharmacy, School of Law and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The Maryland Multi-payer PCMH Program was established in 2010 through legislation sponsored by the O’Malley/Brown administration. For more information on the project, go to http://mhcc.maryland.gov/pcmh/

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