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MU, Patient-Centered Medical Home Goals Aligned, NCQA Says

February 22, 2011
by David Raths
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On January 31, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) released new standards for its Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program. At the HIMSS Conference in Orlando Feb. 21, an NCQA official described how those goals align with meaningful use incentives and suggested that regional extension centers should consider helping physician groups pursue both goals at the same time.

The PCMH program has grown to more than 1,600 primary care sites representing more than 8,000 clinicians. According to NCQA, the PCMH 2011 goals direct practices to organize care according to patients’ preferences and needs. Standards emphasize access to care during and after office hours, and managing care in collaboration with patients and families. NCQAS purposefully embedded federal meaningful use language into the evaluation standards to reinforce incentives for practices to use health information technology.

“When the meaningful use rules came out, we realized we were already thinking about many of the same things,” said Tricia Barrett, vice president of product development for NCQA. “We saw that these two programs could effectively reinforce one another. Both focus on technology adoption that improves the patient-centered experience.”

Barrett led attendees through the topics PCMH addresses and linked them to meaningful use criteria. For instance, under identifying and managing populations, PCMH has several requirements regarding recording and accessing information about patients in structured data fields to help generate reports and generate lists of patients with chronic conditions. Similarly, meaningful use criteria include recording demographics such as language, gender, and ethnicity as well as problem lists, smoking status and list of patients with certain specific conditions.

Chris Dymek, senior healthcare researcher at contract research organization Westat and former director of information products at NCQA, suggested that providers consider PCMH as part of their change management vision for primary care. “It is realistic and attainable,” she said. “The standards provide real guidance and a clear picture of what the future will look like.”

While focusing on practice redesign, she added, RECs should be aware of PCMH standards. “Meaningful use can be a step toward that vision of the patient-centered medical home.”