Health Care Access becomes patient-centered medical home

Lawrence’s Health Care Access Clinic became the first patient-centered medical home in Douglas County when it earned the designation last week.

The clinic, which provides health care to uninsured Douglas County residents, says the recognition will lead to better outcomes for patients and more opportunities for grant funding in the future.

“The patient-centered medical home recognition is kind of the standard right now in health care,” said Kim Scarbrough Polson, communications and policy manager for Health Care Access, who took the lead in helping the clinic earn the designation. “You end up with a higher standard of communication with the patient and coordination of the patient’s entire wellbeing beyond just their primary care.”

The designation makes it easier for primary care providers to do referrals, communicate with specialists and testing labs, and find out if patients go to offsite appointments. Advocates of the model say that this better coordinated, team-based approach saves money in the long run, by ensuring patients receive the care they need before problems become acute.

Many providers are now applying for the status, in part because it comes with higher Medicare reimbursement rates. While that wasn’t the incentive for Health Care Access, which only sees the uninsured, Scarbrough Polson said the designation may help the clinic receive more grant money. It took the clinic two years — in line with the national average — to apply for and receive the recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

In the run-up to the designation, Health Care Access implemented a wellness program, in which patents are given advice on things such as how to improve their diets. The clinic also now has an exercise area in its basement, where patients can meet with a wellness intern to determine a fitness routine that works for them, and a counselor on site for patients’ mental-health needs.