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The 2013 Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards: Runner-Up: Ozark Internal Medicine and Pediatrics

January 28, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Thanks to the drive and commitment of Stacy Zimmerman, M.D., an internal medicine and pediatrics physician, Ozark Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in rural Clinton, Ark. has been on an impressive path to patient-centered medical home (PCMH), which essentially began the day she started her practice, approximately nine years ago. Zimmerman is the lone physician of the practice and works alongside two nurse practitioners.

According to Zimmerman, turning her practice into a PCMH was the perfect avenue to go down because it would streamline operations and make it more efficient. More importantly, she realized that it would allow her to bring better care to an underserved area and bring attention to the needs of the rural healthcare industry. While this issue is ongoing, she says, the practice has already accomplished a lot.

In the process of transforming her medical practice into a PCMH, Zimmerman implemented a secure patient portal that connects the patients to their EHR and allows them to request appointments and prescription refills. Additional elements of Ozark’s PCMH are same day open access, a real-time system buoyed by a visit summary that is sent to the patient’s email, the use of educational modules on its site, and having Facebook act as a way to reach out to patients outside the practice.

A lot of these elements simplify her practice, Zimmerman says. They reduce the number of incoming calls the practice receives and makes the lines of communication “more streamlined.” Furthermore, these elements have helped reduce visits to the ED and readmission rates, she says.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and others have awarded Ozark for these efforts. Not only is it certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NQCA) as a PCMH, but on Aug. 22, CMS announced a roster of 500 primary care practices in seven regions that will participate in its Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative. Ozark is one of them.