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Medical Homes: More CO Clinics Take a Team Approach to Good Health

Health provider, mother and child. Credit: Brian Clark, courtesy of Colorado Health Foundation.
Health provider, mother and child. Credit: Brian Clark, courtesy of Colorado Health Foundation.
July 29, 2015

DENVER - Coloradans are embracing the "medical home" model for health-care delivery, according to a new report from the Colorado Health Foundation.

In a medical home, the patient is the focus, and doctors - who traditionally play the "starring role" in clinics - become part of a team of professionals, all of whom step in as needed. It's also known as "coordinated care," and Jay Brooke, president and chief executive of the High Plains Community Health Center, said meeting all of a patient's needs is what makes the medical-home approach unique.

"You really serve as the 'spoke of the wheel' for the patient, whether they may need some assistance with food stamps or they may qualify for Medicaid," he said. "Each team has people on that team that knows the community resources."

Colorado ranks 26th nationally for medical homes serving adults and seniors, according to the report. It found that nearly 200 facilities in the state now are officially recognized as medical homes - up from just 17 three years ago - and they serve almost 40 percent of residents.

The report spotlighted a young patient at a medical home in Thornton who saw a pediatrician, a dentist and a behavioral health specialist, all in the same visit. At a facility in Aurora, the report showed how a teen mother can get treatment at the same time her babies receive care. Brooke said the model also means patients don't have to wait days or weeks to get an appointment.

"The team concept, and creating access for patients, really leads to the good patient experience," he said. "We save about 60 percent of our appointments every day for same-day appointments."

The report found significant challenges remain for medical homes, however. Settling on how coordinated care should be paid for, integrating data, and transitioning into a team culture top the list. Despite the challenges, Brooke said, the findings indicate that the model can save money and help patients with chronic health issues at the same time.

The report is online at coloradohealth.org/ReportCard.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO