The health care system has its problems. Too many people seek care at the last minute in emergency rooms. This can be costly and is often not effective.
In response, doctors have come up with the idea of the "medical home." It's not a new idea - it started in 1967 with the American Academy of Pediatrics. But since 2004, it's been embraced by over 300,000 doctors in the United States. It is also gaining support from government agencies, insurance companies, and state governments. That's because pilot projects are showing that medical homes can provide better health outcomes at lower costs.
What is a medical home?
A medical home is not a place. It's a plan for the best way to provide health care. The approach helps you and your doctor organize and coordinate your health care by using a mix of the old and the new:
- A caring primary care doctor who knows you throughout your life and treats you as a whole person, not just a set of symptoms
- Access to technology to help you manage your health, such as online health tools, electronic health records, and e-mail contact with your doctor
With a medical home, your doctor becomes your health partner. Your doctor's office becomes the point of contact for all your medical care.
- You get to know your doctor and the office staff, which builds mutual trust and respect.
- Your medical records are kept in one place and your medical history is known.
- If you need special care, your doctor helps you choose your care providers and coordinates the care you get.
- You get the care and services you need at different stages of your life.
Anyone can benefit from having a medical home, but it can be especially important for people with chronic diseases and children with special needs.
How can I find a medical home?
At this point, there is not a set standard to qualify as a medical home. Still, most primary care doctors are committed to providing a medical home for their patients. This includes pediatricians, internists, and family physicians.
The most important step in finding a medical home is choosing a doctor. This should be someone you feel comfortable with, who listens to what you have to say, and helps you feel respected and supported.
You also play a big role in the care you get. To be an effective health care partner, your doctor will need you to:
- Be a good communicator. Share family, cultural, or other information that might help your doctor understand your needs.
- Ask for what you need. If you don't understand something your doctor says, ask him or her to use simpler words. Find out where to call if you need care outside of office hours.
- Keep your doctor informed. Bring a list of medicines you take to your visits. If you see another doctor, have the record of that visit sent to your primary doctor. Let your doctor know if there are changes in your health or your family medical history.
Created on 03/13/2008
Updated on 09/08/2011
- American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP Policy Statement: The medical home. Pediatrics. 2002;110(1):184-186.
- Backer LA. The medical home: an idea whose time has come ... again. Family Practice Management. 2007;14(8):38-41.
- American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American Osteopathic Association. Joint principles of the patient-centered medical home.