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NCQA Ups the Ante on PCMH Standards

March 24, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) updated its standards for evaluating patient-centered medical homes (PCMH), with an integration of behavioral health requirements and expectations as one of the major additions.

This is the third update of NCQA's PCMH standards since they were first introduced in 2008. In this one, practices are expected to collaborate with behavioral health care providers and to communicate behavioral health care capabilities to patients.

In addition, practices are also expected to address socioeconomic drivers of health and poorly controlled or complex conditions. This means focusing on the special needs of patients referred from the “medical neighborhood” of practices that surround and inform the medical home. They also must be in alignment with the "Triple Aim" and show they are compliant with the standards over a long period of time.

“This latest generation of patient-centered medical home standards is an important step in the evolution of primary care into what patients want it to be: coordinated and focused on them,” NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane said in a statement. “Patient-centered medical home 2014 raises the bar, especially with its emphasis on behavioral healthcare and care management for high-need populations.”

The standards also retain strengths of earlier NCQA standards, including alignment with contemporary federal requirements for “meaningful use” of health information technology, specifically Stage 2. NCQA's standards have been adopted by more than 10 percent of U.S. primary care practices, more than 35,500 clinicians at more than 7,000 practice sites, the company claims.

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