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What Do Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Teams Need to Improve Care for Primary Care Patients with Complex Needs?

Stockdale SE, Katz ML, Bergman AA, Zulman DM, Denietolis A, Chang ET. What Do Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Teams Need to Improve Care for Primary Care Patients with Complex Needs? Journal of general internal medicine. 2021 Sep 1; 36(9):2717-2723.

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BACKGROUND: Intensive primary care (IPC) programs for patients with complex needs do not generate cost savings in most settings. Strengthening existing patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) to address the needs of these patients in primary care is a potential high-value alternative. OBJECTIVES: Explore PCMH team functioning and characteristics that may impact their ability to perform IPC tasks; identify the IPC components that could be incorporated into PCMH teams' workflow; and identify additional resources, trainings, and staff needed to better manage patients with complex needs in primary care. METHODS: We interviewed 44 primary care leaders, PCMH team members (providers, nurses, social workers), and IPC program leaders at 5 VA IPC sites and analyzed a priori themes using a matrix analysis approach. RESULTS: Higher-functioning PCMH teams were described as already performing most IPC tasks, including panel management and care coordination. All sites reported that PCMH teams had the knowledge and skills to perform IPC tasks, but not with the same intensity as specialized IPC teams. Home visits/assessments and co-attending appointments were perceived as not feasible to perform. Key stakeholders identified 6 categories of supports and capabilities that PCMH teams would need to better manage complex patients, with care coordination/management and fully staffed teams as the most frequently mentioned. Many thought that PCMH teams could make better use of existing VA and non-VA resources, but might need training in identifying and using those resources. CONCLUSIONS: PCMH teams can potentially offer certain clinic-based services associated with IPC programs, but tasks that are time intensive or require physical absence from clinic might require collaboration with community service providers and better use of internal and external healthcare system resources. Future studies should explore the feasibility of PCMH adoption of IPC tasks and the impact on patient outcomes.

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