New Findings on Medical Home Capacity in Underserved Areas

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<p>Primary care practices that serve poor and minority neighborhoods were found to be more likely than other practices to have key components of the medical home primary care model in place, researchers reported today in the <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em>.</p>
<p>Based on a survey of primary care practices in Massachusetts that serve neighborhoods with high percentages of racial and ethnic minorities or economically disadvantaged residents, the <a href="/publications/journal-article/2010/jun/medical-home-capabilities-primary-care-practices-serve">Commonwealth Fund–supported study</a> found these practices were more likely than others in the state to have on-site language interpreters, clinicians who speak multiple languages, and frequently used, multifunctional electronic health records—all attributes of a patient-centered medical home. The study was led by RAND researchers Mark W. Friedberg, M.D., M.P.P., and Eric C. Schneider, M.D., M.Sc. </p>
<p>Under current and planned medical home pilot projects around the country, practices that are designated as medical homes may qualify for enhanced payments, but only if they have specific medical home capabilities in place, like enhanced access to care, reminder systems for patients and providers, and electronic health records. For many practices serving poor and underserved neighborhoods, the cost of developing such capabilities can be a high barrier.</p>
<p>As the study demonstrates, however, it may not be the case that practices serving a disproportionate share of vulnerable patients face especially high barriers in qualifying for enhanced medical home payments. Moreover, the finding of a positive association between practice sites’ language capabilities and disproportionate-share status suggests that practices serving vulnerable populations may especially benefit from the inclusion of language capabilities in official definitions of a medical home. <br /></p>