In response to requests from family physicians interested in transforming their practices into patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) -- but unsure exactly how to get there -- the AAFP has launched an interactive online tool dubbed the PCMH Planner.
The planner was created to help physicians and staff members sharpen their PCMH focus and then take the right steps, at the right time, to achieve medical home practice transformation.
The AAFP experts who created the planner acknowledge that building a PCMH requires dedication and hard work from the entire practice team. But they point out that with clear blueprints, the right tools and expert direction, the task becomes easier.
Regardless of where a practice is in the transformation process -- whether navigating those first challenging baby steps or, perhaps, waylaid midstride by an unforeseen problem -- this resource can help physicians
- assess their current progress in the PCMH transformation process,
- identify specific goals to fill any gaps,
- track their practice's progress through the planner's dashboard, and
- access important PCMH resources needed each step of the way.
The planner is intended to help practices prepare for the PCMH recognition process, but each individual practice is responsible for ensuring that it does the hard work required to achieve PCMH recognition through the National Committee for Quality Assurance or other entities such as The Joint Commission and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.
But why release the PCMH Planner now? After all, for several years, the AAFP has encouraged family physicians to embrace the PCMH model of care in preparation for a rapidly changing health care environment.
According to Tracey Allen-Ehrhart, manager of the AAFP's center for quality, the Academy's rekindled sense of urgency about PCMH practice transformation came in part from statistics gleaned from the AAFP's 2012 Practice Profile survey. According to those results, obtained in June 2013, only about 24 percent of family medicine practices reported having achieved official recognition as a PCMH practice. That's important, she noted, because physicians' payment and, in some cases, a practice's survival, may hang in the balance.
To put it plainly, Allen-Ehrhart told AAFP News, family physicians needed help.
"We heard very clearly from members, especially those in solo and small practices, that they could not afford to hire practice facilitators to help them transform their practices to the PCMH model," said Allen-Ehrhart.
Already overwhelmed by all the tasks assigned them by HHS, CMS and private health insurance companies, family physicians said they were left with little time to research and implement PCMH changes on their own.
"Many family physicians have asked the AAFP for a resource that simply tells them what to do. Members want a resource to effectively guide them through that process step-by-step," said Allen-Ehrhart.
The PCMH Planner does that and more.
The online resource is an evolving educational tool and, as such, comes with free updates. Because electronic health records (EHRs) are considered a critical component of the PCMH model, for example, content developed around EHR meaningful use stage two requirements soon will be added, and planner subscribers will receive email notification of the new content.
The cost of the planner depends on the number of users in a member practice and is based on a two-year subscription. For instance, an AAFP member practice with one user pays $99.95, a practice with two to five users pays $149, and a practice with six to 10 users pays $249. Nonmembers can purchase the planner too, but they will pay more.
Those considering whether to invest in the PCMH Planner should note that it is compatible with mobile devices; however, creators agree that content is best viewed on larger screens.
Readers with questions about the PCMH Planner can consult a series of frequently asked questions about the planner posted online. Questions also may be emailed to the AAFP's Contact Center at email@example.com, or call (800) 274-2237.