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Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(6):775-778

See related editorial on page 774.

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

The joint principles of the patient-centered medical home (PC-MH), released by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, and American Osteopathic Association, is a landmark guideline of interprofessional cooperation.1 This guideline is a timely statement of the evidence-based principles of medical care that improve outcomes and lower health care costs for patients. It is also a visionary statement of the principles that professional primary care organizations believe will guarantee continuous practice improvement for decades to come.

The PC-MH captures the family physician's traditional spirit of caring and the contemporary spirit of innovation and integration that goes beyond the walls of a physical office. It is a philosophy that encompasses everything that family physicians do for their patients in their communities—in the office, in the hospital, in partnerships with other organizations, through communication with patients, and through patient advocacy. The PC-MH is currently embraced by many members of the U.S. Congress as the centerpiece for health care system and payment reform.

Family physicians should have a sound understanding of the principles outlined in the joint guideline and should use the terminology to promote the type of care that improves health care equity and quality. Characteristics of an effective medical home are prominently described. In addition to these characteristics, family physicians can also advocate for two other important characteristics: (1) family orientation (the degree to which family members are cared for by the same physician or in the same medical home); and (2) community orientation (the degree to which the practice assesses community health care needs and develops and measures interventions).

Family physicians now have an unprecedented opportunity to join their generalist colleagues with a strong, common voice to influence change in the health care system that will benefit patients and the nation in the coming years.

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