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Today I revisit a topic I have written about many times: The Patient-Centered Medical Home Neighborhood (PCMH-N). Yet now I address it with a fresh perspective in the context of the pandemic.

The PCMH-N, with its connectivity to the broader healthcare community, encompasses primary care, health systems, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, pharmacies, human service agencies and other organizations that seek to promote health, wellness, and healing within a community. Never before have the benefits of the PCMH been as clear as they have become during the pandemic. Starting with the immediate and wide-scale need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for those caring for community members, to the gathering of resources such as food, clothing and shelter, to sharing best practices to re-opening, the PCMH neighborhood was ready to respond as it was designed to do.

I am not saying it was designed specifically for a pandemic, but when the pandemic hit, it certainly seemed like it was. Such collaboration! Such teamwork! To have a network of resources at the ready – even if we may not have considered ourselves to be so networked previously – was a light in a very dark and scary place. We are not over this, but despite the remaining uncertainty, I’d like to think we are less frightened. Some may even feel emboldened and positioned to take on new challenges. To the primary care providers who survived with a little or a lot of help from your friends, I urge you to consider joining a Physicians Organization (or as I like to call them, a patient care organization) if you are not a member already.

Why? Because if the PCMH-N was made for a pandemic, so was a Physicians Organization. The PCMH-N movement was started and championed by primary care practitioners – and the primary care provider is at the heart of the neighborhood’s foundation. To truly be part of the neighborhood, the primary care physician needs to become a patient-centered medical home. That’s very difficult to do as an unaffiliated provider, simply because funding and clinical support such as interdisciplinary care teams, care managers, and new chronic care initiatives that combine to provide optimal whole person care to patients, are introduced and managed through PO’s. Payors turn to POs to help implement care models to best reach the tens of thousands of patients in our respective PO populations. Increasingly, community organizations and public health departments are also looking to PO’s as thought leaders, if you will, for best practices in primary care. (Okay, they also looked to us for PPE, but we were happy to oblige when we could.)

This is not a shameless plug for my PO. Michigan has 39 outstanding PO’s statewide and, depending on your location, you likely have several options to choose from. With a focus on quality outcomes, identifying and eliminating gaps in care, and putting the patient at the center of the practice, PO’s offer what PCPS are – or should be – looking for. They also provide leadership opportunities for physicians who want to take an elevated role in the healthcare community in addition to doing their important patient work. National industry executives and even local media turned to POs during the pandemic to access experts in primary care, pediatrics, gerontology, healthcare administration and telehealth. Which reminds me, a PO can also offer advanced technology services such as telehealth that may be hard to invest in as a solo or small multi-physician practice. The benefits are limitless, of course, but they are extensive.  

The Physicians Organization is experiencing a rebirth of sorts. Is it time you check one out and find a PO home of your own?