MCHC Becomes First Health Center in Mendocino County to Be Awarded Prestigious “Patient-Centered Medical Home” Recognition

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October 2014

Willits, CA ‑ Mendocino Community Health Clinic (MCHC)’s Little Lake Health Center has just become the first health center in Mendocino County to receive recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA).

The Patient-Centered Medical Home approach emphasizes health care with better coordination and communication, and it encourages patients to get involved in decisions about their health care. “Medical homes can lead to higher quality and lower costs, and can improve patients’ and providers’ experience of care,” an NCQA spokesperson said.

By following detailed instructions and submitting data about how patients receive care, MCHC earned Level 3 Recognition (NCQA’s top recognition). MCHC Compliance Officer and Grant Specialist Kathleen Stone has been part of the MCHC team focused on NCQA recognition. She explained in more detail why this award is so important.

“The Patient-Centered Medical Home really is the future of health care. It is a way of providing care that is more efficient and it gives patients more tools so they can participate in their own care,” she said.

A Patient-Centered Medical Home is different from other primary care health centers for several reasons. Patient-Centered Medical Homes follow strict guidelines, using a team-based approach as they track patient care over time, focus on preventive care, help patients manage chronic diseases, and integrate behavioral health services when needed.

For example, when a 35-year-old mother of two struggles to manage her diabetes, a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) will help her in many ways. A PCMH team member will remind her to make an appointment if she has not seen her doctor recently. During her medical appointment, she will be given a blood test to determine whether she falls within healthy guidelines. Another PCMH team member will work with her to identify why she is struggling to stay healthy and help her address those things. If she needs transportation to get to her medical appointment, for example, she will receive a referral for that service. If she needs to see a specialist, another PCMH team member will coordinate that care and be sure the results of the visit with the specialist come back to the PCMH, so the home team knows how best to continue providing care. If she is feeling anxious or depressed about her situation and wants to see a therapist, her medical provider will walk her down the hall to meet the therapist. When she leaves the PCMH, she receives a summary of her visit so she does not have to try to remember everything she is told during the visit.

Through prevention and education, and through well-coordinated treatment, this patient feels better because she stays healthier, and she avoids expensive visits to the Emergency Room. 

NCQA focuses on results. For chronic disease and preventive care, NCQA requires Patient-Centered Medical Homes to submit data that allows them to assess whether a patient population is getting healthier overall. The electronic health record flags patient records when it is time for them to receive preventive care like immunizations or pap tests. And when it comes to chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, the healthcare team follows best practices as well as developing individual treatment plans that allow patients to take an active role in their care. 

One of the most difficult challenges in health care is helping vulnerable populations improve their health. Patient-Centered Medical Homes track vulnerable patient populations, including patients who are poverty-stricken or homeless, as well as seniors, allowing the healthcare team to be aware of the extra stress factors affecting these patients. Patient-Centered Medical Homes work with community organizations to refer patients to local services if the Medical Home does not provide the services directly (e.g., smoking cessation classes, nutrition counseling, etc.).

Because the Patient-Centered Medical Home leads to better care and lower costs, this approach is becoming the new standard. Health centers like MCHC as well as doctors’ offices and other organizations that receive payments from Medicare will be expected to rise to this level of care in the near future.

“I am incredibly proud of our team,” said MCHC CEO Linnea Hunter. “This has been a team effort and the NCQA recognition is a nice way for us to demonstrate to our community just how well our patients are cared for.”

MCHC offers medical, dental, and behavioral health services to people in Ukiah, Willits and Lakeport. All MCHC health centers accept Medi-Cal, Medicare, Covered California insurance, and more. Mendocino Community Health Clinic is a local non-profit organization providing access to health care for all. Learn more at www.mchcinc.org.

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