Chrystal Eller, M.D.
Rob Thomas, P.A.-C
TROY – In the not too distant past, health care for many people involved little more than visiting the doctor’s office when they were sick or injured.
Even those enlightened individuals who made an annual physical a part of their health care routine probably just coughed when the doctor told them to cough, took deep breaths also when so ordered, and dutifully responded to their doctor’s questions without thinking about volunteering information or asking questions of their own.
With increased emphasis on preventive medicine, patient-centered care and quality-based reimbursement, much has changed in the way 21st century health care is being delivered. The recent three-year recognition of the FirstHealth Family Care Center-Troy as a Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home tells patients in the Montgomery County community that the clinic provides care that is personalized, coordinated, effective and efficient.
“Being recognized as a Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home is a great honor and achievement for us,” says Chrystal Eller, M.D. “This recognition shows the effort we are putting forward to coordinate all aspects of a patient’s medical care.”
Dr. Eller and Rob Thomas, P.A.-C, specialize in family medicine at the FirstHealth Family Care Center-Troy.
Patient Centered Medical Home is a designation awarded by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). In a set of standards describing specific guidelines, the program gives medical practices the information that helps them organize care around the patient as an individual.
Providers are encouraged to work in teams to coordinate and track the patient’s care over time. The goal is a health care setting that builds a patient-provider “partnership,” meaning that patients get the care they need, when they need it.
“Patients and providers develop a partnership devoted to providing the best, most efficient, evidence-based care to our patients,” Dr. Eller says. “Coordination of services includes a wide variety of things including acute conditions, chronic care management, preventive services, coordination with home health services, case managers, care providers, sub-specialists, lab and imaging services.”
Family Care Center office manager Kim Cooke describes the primary care provider as the “hub” of the patient’s health care team.
“The provider becomes the guardian of your health care, who keeps up with your medical information and shares it with other providers as necessary for the coordination of care,” she says.
Because patients are involved in their own medical care, they are also involved in their health care decisions, becoming “a partner in the development of a plan of action for their care,” according to Dr. Eller.
“We track our performance in real time and make adjustments in our processes and procedures as we need to in order to provide the best possible care,” she says.
The Level 3 designation the Troy clinic received is the highest that is awarded through the NCQA program. The lengthy application process included an evaluation of every aspect of the clinic practice – from access and communication to direct patient care and reporting – and covered nine standards (criteria). Each standard included multiple “elements,” 10 of them “must pass,” for which specific practice information had to be provided.
“For every standard, you had to show what your practice does for each element, attach any policies/procedures, and show examples of each element from your patient database,” Cooke says. “During six weeks of the three-month process, we participated in two teleconferences per week with a consultant discussing what each application standard meant, what they would be looking for and examples on completion of each element.”
The application process required members of the clinic’s staff to take a hard look at the way they were delivering patient care. They found they were doing very well.
“The most rewarding part of this recognition is the fact that we did not have to change much about the way we provide services to earn this recognition,” Dr. Eller says. “We were already meeting these quality standards.”