The 27 pediatric primary care offices of Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics (ACHP), along with the Locust Pediatric Care Group, have been awarded recognition by the National Committee for Quality Assurance Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program.
The PCMH model of care focuses on patient-centered standards. The goals are to improve access to care, enhance communication between the care team and patient families, and broaden the scope to treat the “whole” child.
“PCMH makes the great care we provide even better,” said Karen Sullivan, ACHP senior operations manager. “We’re helping patients with all aspects of their lives – from food insecurity to feeling safe at home to coordinating care for kids with high-risk conditions.”
The journey toward PCMH recognition began years ago.
“Locust Pediatric Care Group obtained PCMH recognition in 2014,” Karen shared. “ACHP was an early adopter of the Comprehensive Primary Care program – similar to PCMH but run by the Ohio Department of Medicaid – so it made sense for ACHP to pursue PCMH as well.”
The Comprehensive Primary Care and PCMH programs align with the value-based payment system, so participation has a financial benefit to Akron Children’s Hospital.
“The financial realities of the Comprehensive Primary Care program created a huge incentive to complete the PCMH process and maintain the level of commitment into the future,” said Dr. P. Cooper White, director of Locust Pediatric Care Group. “That said, the changes we’ve implemented are absolutely the right thing to do for our patient families.”
Led by the team of Dr. White, Karen, Dr. Jennifer Dwyer and Ben Teske, many departments contributed to the PCMH efforts.
“It cannot be overstated how much work went into this process. PCMH is all about teamwork, and everyone did a great job,” Dr. White said. “The transformation project included an executive team, clinical management, operations, IT/Epic, External Affairs, Managed Care and Population Health. We are grateful to hospital administration for the unfettered support made available, including a consultant who was a key to the process. We are very grateful to the front-line staff and our providers who are living PCMH every day.”
The PCHM team continues to receive major contributions from departments outside of primary care: Population Health, Quality, Patient Experience, Social Work and Community Health Workers.
“We even have a partnership with Community Legal Aid,” Dr. White said. “They aren’t our employees but do a great job meeting our patients’ needs at the intersection of health and law.”
PCMH improvements included the adoption of team-based care; daily huddles to review the patient schedule and discuss any concerns; and social workers and care coordinators dedicated to primary care. ACHP pediatricians have discreetly added screening questions to learn about a family’s situation at home – if they have enough food and feel safe.
“What we did was thoughtful. We don’t just blurt out questions about the home environment in front of patients in the exam room,” Karen said. “We put the questions on paper, giving parents time to answer and share any concerns without alarming their kids.”
Some offices are coming up with creative ways to support patient families beyond medical care. For example, ACHP Alliance became a weekly stop for the StarkFresh food truck that offers fresh, affordable, locally grown produce throughout the summer.
Everyone involved in the pursuit of PCMH recognition celebrated the achievement – but the work continues.
“An annual recertification process is in place now, and Karen Sullivan remains a key individual in our efforts to maintain certification,” Dr. White explained. “We have discussed adding a clinician dedicated to that process as well. There are additional certifications available around mental health integration and patient experience. Specialty practices can also get recognition for patient-centered care.”
Karen embraced the PCMH model so much that she became a certified content expert, passing a 4-hour test to achieve certification.
“It’s been amazing to be part of this collaborative effort,” she offered. “The bottom line we’re all focused on: keeping our kids healthy.”