New Principles Focus on Patient-centered Medical Home

December 20, 2010

Several major medical societies are adopting joint principles designed to help prepare physicians for practice in the medical home environment.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association have promulgated a new policy to guide the education of physicians who will be graduating from US medical schools in an era of health care reform that promotes preventive health services and a greater reliance on primary care.

The policy, known as the Joint Principles for the Medical Education of Physicians as Preparation for Practice in the Patient-Centered Medical Home, builds on the Joint Principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), which the groups adopted three years ago.

The new educational principles will nowe forwarded to the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, which will consider them for endorsement.

Perry Pugno, MD, MPH, director of the AAFP Division of Medical Education, said the new principles are an important guide to medical schools because the emphasis is on prevention and the need for increasing access to primary care.

"Training for PCMH practice has been embraced by the graduate medical education community, but at the medical school level, the response has been less,” he said in a statement, which explains why the principles will focus on guiding development at the medical school level.

The original PCMH joint principles, which were adopted in February 2007, comprise seven components:

  • the concept of the personal physician,
  • a physician-directed, team-based approach to medical practice,
  • a whole-person orientation,
  • coordinated and integrated care,
  • quality and safety,
  • enhanced access, and
  • an appropriate payment framework.

The new medical education principles relate each of these PCMH components to the pertinent Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education/American Board of Medical Specialties core competencies and describe the corresponding education sub-principles. For example, the personal physician component of the PCMH joint principles calls for each patient to have an ongoing relationship with a personal physician trained to provide first-contact, continuous and comprehensive care. The related attributes/competencies for students say that medical students should demonstrate knowledge about the definition of patient-centeredness and must be able to demonstrate the ability to provide patient-centered care in their clinical encounters.

The corresponding education sub-principles say that medical students are expected to experience continuity in relationships with patients in a longitudinal fashion within practices that deliver first-contact, comprehensive, integrated, coordinated, high-quality and affordable care. In addition, students are expected to communicate effectively and demonstrate caring and respectful behaviors when interacting with patients and their families and fellow professionals.

Student attributes/competencies related to physician-directed, team-based practice say that medical students should be able to demonstrate collaborative care via leadership skills that result in effective information exchange and teaming with patients, their patients' families and professional associates.

The corresponding education sub-principles call for medical students able to work effectively with others as a member or leader of a health care team; articulate the roles, functions and working relationships of all members of the team; and apply knowledge of leadership development, quality improvement, change management and conflict management.

The new joint principles acknowledge that integrating these features into undergraduate medical education will require additional resources. In some cases, students simply can be incorporated into existing patient-care and practice-based activities. In other cases, however, additional faculty and staff will be needed to create and oversee new experiences for the students.

“We know that the current model of health care isn't financially sustainable,” said Pugno. “We need at least some medical schools and their academic medical centers to show leadership and make some difficult choices—and change how they do business. In the short term, it will cost, but the dividends will come in the future.”

Source: American Academy of Family Physicians