For individuals with limited resources, "health care" may consist of a series of unrelated visits to different doctors, clinics, even emergency departments—siloed, episodic care when needed. Rutgers Eric B. Chandler Health Center, a comprehensive, family-oriented community health center, has been working hard to change that experience.
And, it's all been done under the auspices of an organization that defines itself by a "culture of yes"—that is, the dedication by staff to always go out of their way and ensure that all patient requests for assistance are met with a "yes." If a particular staff member is unable to provide that help, he or she reaches out to a supervisor, manager, or director until assistance can be found.
Each Chandler patient has a single primary care provider who coordinates care and with whom he or she can build a clinical relationship over the long term. New systems are in place to identify not only patients who have received hospital or emergency care elsewhere, but also those who would benefit from an enhanced level of care coordination, such as patients with HIV, individuals who require disease management, or children who are overweight or obese. Performance is measured against evidence-based guidelines for quality care.
These types of initiatives recently helped earn Rutgers Eric B. Chandler Health Center recognition by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Level 2 Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) in NCQA's PCMH 2011 program.
The patient-centered medical home is a model of care emphasizing care coordination and communication to transform primary care into "what patients want it to be," NCQA explains. The PCMH program identifies practices that promote partnerships between individual patients and their personal clinicians, instead of treating patient care as the sum of several episodic office visits.
"While recognition, in and of itself, does not improve or impact how we provide care to our patients every day, it is evidence of a level of care that combines access, teamwork, and technology to deliver high-quality services and improve health in our patients. We are privileged to be counted among those select organizations that have successfully demonstrated the ability to impact patients' health care in this way," says Dr. Eric G. Jahn, senior associate dean for community health, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
NCQA's Patient-Centered Medical Home 2011 standards emphasize the use of systematic, patient-centered, coordinated care that supports access, communication, and patient involvement—all of which are integral to Chandler's services.
"Our patients have always been at the center of everything we do," says Sandra Adams, executive director, Eric B. Chandler Health Center. "This philosophy is central to our mission and the very culture of our organization. It is the founding idea of our program 'Operation Respect,' which focuses on providing quality services to our patients and the community at large. Every patient, every family member, every interaction. From providing services that are culturally relevant and sensitive, to establishing processes that encourage team-based and whole-person care, Chandler's physicians and staff exemplify the goals of patient-centered care."
Achieving PCMH recognition was a group effort, Dr. Steven J. Levin, medical director, Eric B. Chandler Health Center, says.
"Together, the team at Chandler embraced changes in many of our processes, including full implementation of an electronic medical record and dental medical record, as well as reviewing and rewriting policies that defined access to care during and after office hours," Levin says. "We continue to work toward our ultimate goal of achieving Level 3 status, the highest level of recognition, and are confident we will meet success."
NCQA's PCMH 2011 Recognition Program reflects the input of the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Osteopathic Association. Recognition is valid for three years.
Rutgers Eric B. Chandler Health Center