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Why Telehealth is Key to the Patient Medical Home

Hattie Hayes

Written by Hattie Hayes

Any physician will tell you the most important moments in a healthcare journey don't take place in an office or a hospital. More and more today, the most crucial care happens in the home. Technology allows us to make home care more intentional every day, and that's the mindset behind the patient-centered medical home model. The PCMH is focused on comprehensive, coordinated care with patient needs at the forefront.

Those needs will change from patient to patient: some may require treatment for chronic illness, while others will need a connection to specialists while recovering from surgery. In any case, technology, especially telehealth, is central to the success of primary care medical homes.

Within the umbrella of patient engagement is family engagement, or family participation in patient care plans. By centering treatment in the home, PCMH models of care naturally integrate families into the patient engagement framework. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, orienting medical care around the home allows physicians to respect "each patient’s unique needs, culture, values, and preferences."

Telehealth allows patients and families to consult with physicians from the home setting, reinforcing care and creating a greater likelihood of effective care plan fulfillment. Using telehealth is the easiest way for physicians to guide home care without disrupting families' normal habits and routines.

This strategy lends itself to greater accessibility, as well. PCMH models are notable for creating a near-constant access to medical care that would have been a reality only in hospitals 20 years ago. Coupling telemedicine and telehealth with the PCMH means that rural patients, patients with compromised mobility and other potentially marginalized groups have access to quality evaluation and treatment. Telehealth has shown its worth in decreasing hospital readmissions, and that quality is even more useful for patients in a PCMH setting.

Effective primary care transcends boundaries and takes into account all aspects of a patient's health. In the PCMH, telehealth is the best way to ensure continuity and coordination of care. In one article from the Journal of General Internal Medicine, primary care is valued when it comprehensively addresses "integration of care of acute and (often co-morbid) chronic illnesses, mental health and prevention," and when it allows for more narrowly-focused care when necessary.

To establish such a multifaceted view of patient health, it helps to be grounded in a "nucleus" like the home. By consulting with primary care physicians and specialists via telehealth, patients in the PCMH root all aspects of care in one location. Using remote monitoring devices and telemedicine consultations, patients are able to create best practices for their own health needs.

Of course, the most important part of effective healthcare, in our opinion, is the physician-patient relationship. In order to create the comprehensive care plan that's indicative of the patient-centered medical home, physicians need a strong knowledge of the patient's personal history and lifestyle.

Telehealth is a natural bridge between patients in the PCMH and their primary care physicians. This relationship enhances the effectiveness of care, and means patients are more comfortable speaking up if some aspect of their treatment isn't working. Telehealth enables regular connectivity and keeps physicians involved in their patient bases' lives.

The PCMH is quickly becoming standard for many patients across the nation. With the advent of telehealth technology, quality home care will be more accessible and have a greater impact than ever before.


How do you use telehealth to support the patient-centered medical home?

Let us know in the comments!

Published: May 10, 2016