By: Peily Soong, M.D.Medical homes have made their way to the forefront of health care in recent years. No wonder. This emerging system for primary care addresses two of medicine’s most pressing concerns — cost and quality.
Pediatrics East, which is part of the Children’s of Alabama system and one of Birmingham’s oldest pediatric practices, is at the forefront of the medical home movement. This year, Pediatrics East was recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as a Patient Centered Medical Home with the highest designation, Level 3. That means a lot to the staff at Pediatrics East, but we think it means much more to our patients.
Medical homes focus on patients instead of procedures, which is why this approach is sometimes referred to as patient-centered care. Also, medical homes often operate under the umbrella of an accountable care organization, or an ACO. In fact, some ACOs have been referred to as “medical neighborhoods,” encompassing several medical homes.
Pioneered by large pediatric practices, medical homes are more of a philosophy than actual places or locations. The idea is based upon primary care providers coordinating all medical needs for patients. This reduces overlapping procedures, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits while substantially cutting costs, better targeting care, and improving communication.
Developed decades ago, the patient-centered medical home model began to experience a growth spurt nationwide in 2007 when it was recognized and defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Medicine, American College of Physicians and American Osteopathic Association.
At Pediatrics East, we view our medical home as a “whole child” approach to medicine requiring a care team, technology, access to services, evidence-based care, and a solid partnership with children and their families.
Our care teams incorporates everyone in our clinic from our pediatricians to the people answering our phone calls. The clinical staff of physicians, nurses, lab techs, and medical assistants help to deliver care while our front staff, business office, and referral staff help with coordinating care and making sure there is continuity with other referring physicians.
Part of being a medical home includes being readily available to meet the needs of our patients. Our office hours are 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., and we offer extended hours for urgent care and routine newborn follow-up Monday through Thursday evenings, Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons. Our nurses can be reached by phone and by electronic messages through our patient portal during regular office hours. Pediatric nurses from Children’s of Alabama as well as one of our physicians are on-call once our clinic closes.
We have quick and easy access to a child’s comprehensive health information through electronic medical records, and we communicate with all providers who care for a child. We have referral specialists — office assistants who work closely with outside providers to arrange appointments and keep up with developments in a patient’s care by ensuring that referring physicians send us their clinic notes on our patients. Our lab technicians work diligently to follow up on lab tests and diagnostic imaging tests done at other facilities.Our care is based upon evidenced-based recommendations for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. As medical evidence changes, we change. We explain changes to families and support family self-management of general health and chronic illnesses. We strive to give all of our families the tools they need and to serve as a health hub for every child’s care.
We are not alone in creating medical homes. The Department of Veterans Affairs is using the medical home model for its outpatient clinics, as are numerous primary care practices nationwide. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been working with the concept since 1967.The National Committee for Quality Assurance has now recognized almost 5,000 practices throughout the United States. This committee offers the most widely accepted medical home recognition program in the nation. It has three levels of recognition that reflect how extensively a practice meets requires. These gradations also allow different sizes and types of practices to meet standards.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Level 3 designation means that Pediatrics East has met the highest set of standards for a medical home that organizes care around patients, works with care teams, and coordinates and tracks patient care.
With our medical home, we strive to provide evidenced-based, quality medical. Being a medical home helps us to empower families and strengthens clinician-patient relationships.
With offices in Trussville and on Deerfoot Parkway, Pediatrics East was started by Dr. Vincent Carnaggio in 1957 to serve the pediatric community in the eastern part of Birmingham. Dr. Carnaggio was joined by Dr. Andrew Charles Money in 1962 and together they made a positive impact on pediatric health care and in the eastern area. Today Pediatrics East continues to provide pediatric medical care to the communities of Jefferson County, St. Clair County, Blount County and other surrounding areas. In 1996, Pediatrics East became part of the Children's of Alabama. Pediatrics East celebrated its 50th anniversary of treating patients in 2007.