NCQA seeks comments on medical home program for specialty practices

A handful of non-primary care groups have qualified within the general program, but an expansion would allow more doctors to participate.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted June 27, 2012

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Physicians have until July 6 to comment on standards for specialty practices wanting to become part of a patient-centered medical home “neighborhood.”

The National Committee for Quality Assurance released details of its specialty practice recognition program on June 8. The program will recognize specialty practices that work with primary care medical homes to coordinate care, provide timely access, use information technology to reduce test duplication and work toward continuous quality improvement.

The standards, which should be finalized by early 2013, will align with those for meaningful use bonuses for electronic health records. Primary care practices that have earned medical home recognition from NCQA have been paid additional money from some third-party payers. NCQA expects this also to be possible for speciality practices that become part of the medical home neighborhood.

NCQA’s primary care medical home program has recognized at least 4,220 practices. A small number of specialty practices participated. However, interest developed for a framework for non-primary care practices to participate in the model if being the actual medical home was not a good fit. The American College of Physicians released a policy paper Oct. 12, 2010, created by its Council of Subspecialty Societies, stating that for the patient-centered medical home to reach its potential, the neighbor concept needed more attention.

“There are challenges in the communication and coordination among specialist physicians and other clinicians that could be dealt with through better structures and better mechanisms,” said Patricia Barrett, NCQA’s vice president for product development.

Speciality practices still can apply to the primary care medical home program if they are the main source of care for the majority of their patients. The patient-centered medical home grew out of work in the late 1960s by the American Academy of Pediatrics to improve care for special needs children. It is now viewed as one of many possible strategies for reducing health care costs for the general population.

Doctors can leave comments about the specialty practices recognition program online (link).

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