Breaking away from day-to day patient-care demands to identify practice flaws, improve quality and shift workflow patterns can be tough. But in an environment increasingly geared toward performance measurement, more medical practices are making an effort to step up their game.
A Web-based tool, available online now, was designed by the American College of Physicians to seamlessly guide the entire practice team -- physicians, nurses and administrators -- through the practice transformation process.
"There's a lot of pressure on physicians and their practice staff, especially small offices, to be more efficient and enhance the quality of care delivered," said Dr. Michael S. Barr, ACP's vice president of practice advocacy and improvement. "The ACP Medical Home Builder can help teams evaluate a concern or guide the practice through an exercise to identify opportunities for improvement."
The Medical Home Builder was initially developed to assist practices interested in participating in a Patient-Centered Medical Home demonstration project. But during the two-year development process, the architects of the product realized that any practice could benefit from going through the exercise.
"If a practice is getting ready for a medical home demo or already participating in a demo, the Medical Home Builder can help the office achieve the appropriate recognition and hopefully enhanced reimbursement, if that is part of the demonstration project," Dr. Barr said. "But we also believe that even within the current reimbursement system, this tool can help practices find opportunities to improve office work flow, operations and efficiency, which can lead to better clinical and financial performance."
The tool guides users through seven modules:
- Patient-Centered Care & Communication
- Access & Scheduling
- Organization of Practice
- Care Coordination & Transition in Care
- Use of Technology
- Population Management
- Quality Improvement & Performance Improvement
Users can access any number of modules in any order and for any practice-enhancement purpose.
A medical practice might be preparing to implement an electronic health record, for example. Rather than duplicating current pathways, members of the practice might want to consider how to do things more efficiently. That's where modules on communication and access could provide insight and information.
Or, perhaps a practice has identified a problem with the timeliness of turning around reports to patients. The tool also offers resources tailored to address that problem.
Practices seeking National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home can use the tool to prepare for that evaluation or to rectify shortcomings identified as a result of the NCQA recognition process.
Each module contains a background section modeling how a practice might use the resources in the Medical Home Builder.
The resources section of each module includes a variety of media from both ACP and other sources -- including sample policies, videos, Web sites, articles and books -- and will be expanded as relevant resources are identified. "Our goal is for this to become more of a learning community over time as users contribute content to share with others," Dr. Barr said.
At the core of each module is a "practice biopsy." Users respond to simple yes/no questions and receive a green, yellow or red performance rating, indicating the degree of strength or weakness in a particular area and in a module overall.
The tool is designed to encourage a shared discussion among multiple stakeholders within a practice. The practice administrator, for example, might pass along a question on information technology to an IT expert, or several practice members might engage in a shared discussion of the biopsy questions at once.
Dr. Barr expects that the product, over time, will be expanded to include other modules, including clinical and business-related content.
Beginning in February, licensed users of ACP's Web-based tool, called the Medical Home Builder, can participate in a series of nine free Webinars. The series, "Charting Your Way to Practice Improvement: Webinars for the 21st Century Patient-Centered Practice," features expert speakers in various aspects of patient-centered care.
Both ACP and non-ACP members can license the Medical Home Builder, although members receive a slight pricing advantage. There are different pricing levels for independent practices and large organizations, such as demonstration projects and IPAs. Detailed pricing information is available on the ACP Web site.