December 19, 2013 (BOSTON) – The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), the renowned healthcare quality improvement organization, has recognized Tufts Medical Center’s hospital-based primary care practice, General Medical Associates (GMA), as a level-3 Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) with distinction, NCQA’s highest designation in the PCMH 2011 Recognition Program. Fewer than 40 primary care practices in the entire state of Massachusetts have achieved a level 3 PCMH. PCMH recognition affirms that a primary care practice provides an exceptionally high level of quality, team-based, patient-focused care.
“The NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home is a model of 21st century primary care that combines access, teamwork and technology to deliver quality care and improve health,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “NCQA’s PCMH recognition shows that Tufts Medical Center’s primary care practice has the tools, systems and resources to provide their patients with the right care at the right time.”
To qualify for level-3 PCMH status, Tufts Medical Center was required to show proof that they provide and maintain a high level of patient engagement and outreach, effectively removing barriers to care. NCQA conducted a rigorous review of the primary care practice’s operations, processes and procedures, requiring evidence that it provides same-day appointments, offers extended office hours, calls high-risk patients to ensure they understand their discharge summary after hospital admissions, returns patient phone calls in a timely manner and has a representative available by phone to answer emergency questions at all times. NCQA rates each practice applying for PCMH recognition on a scale of 1-to-100; a total of 83 points is required for level-3 PCMH. GMA received a score of 94.
“The key to establishing a successful Patient-Centered Medical Home is being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to a patient’s experience,” said Michael Wagner, MD, FACP, Interim President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center. “Achieving a level-3 PCMH is a true testament to the entire GMA team’s dedication to delivering high-quality care and commitment to helping our patients manage their personal health. As a primary care physician myself, I couldn’t be more proud of this significant accomplishment.”
Deborah Blazey-Martin, MD, MPH, Chief of Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Tufts Medical Center and Pam Nettles-Gomez, GMA Business Operations Manager, spearheaded the initiatives. Liz Barnhart, FNP, GMA Clinical Director of Nursing, worked tirelessly to implement the necessary changes and reviewed countless hours of charts required for level-3 PCMH recognition. In addition, Joe Gillis, GMA Project Manager and Data Specialist, created a multitude of reports from Tufts MC’s electronic medical record that were mandated by the PCMH application process.
Some of GMA’s PCMH initiatives include:
- Calling patients who may need extra support two weeks in advance of their appointment to ensure they are well prepared for their visit.
- Sending a letter to patients who are due for preventive screenings and procedures during their birthday month.
- Stressing pre-visit preparation among staff, so the care team already knows, understands and anticipates each patient’s individual needs when they arrive for their appointment.
- Instituting a team-based approach in caring for patients, including a dedicated social worker, a depression and substance abuse coordinator, many nurse practitioners, administrative coordinators, a pharmacist and medical assistants - in addition to doctors and nurses.
- Saving at least 25 appointment slots daily for patients who need to be seen urgently. This keeps patients from needing to seek care in the Emergency Department.
- Catering to the local Chinatown community by prioritizing the hiring of clinical and support staff who can interact with local patients in their native languages. GMA recently hired two new full-time, Mandarin-speaking physicians and provides clinic handouts and materials translated into Chinese and Spanish.
- Reaching out to new local residents by mail with a “welcome” postcard, describing the ease of seeing a GMA doctor in their neighborhood.
“All of these efforts – and many, many others - are the culmination of more than three years of work behind the scenes to revamp our operations and organizational structure to place an increased focus on serving our patients,” said Dr. Blazey-Martin. “It is our practice’s goal to set the industry standard, not only for offering top-notch primary care, but also for providing an outstanding patient experience.”
“The heart of the Patient-Centered Medical Home is an organizational devotion to treating the ‘whole person,’” said Nettles-Gomez. “With the necessary support and resources, patients will become engaged in improving their own health. That’s what PCMH is all about."
About Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Children's Hospital
Tufts Medical Center is an exceptional, not-for-profit, 415-bed academic medical center that is home to both a full-service hospital for adults and Tufts Children's Hospital. Conveniently located in downtown Boston, the Medical Center is the principal teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Children's Hospital is the full-service children's hospital of Tufts Medical Center and the principal pediatric teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Medical Center is affiliated with the New England Quality Care Alliance, a network of more than 1,800 physicians throughout Eastern Massachusetts. For more information, please visit www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org.
Media Contact: Jeremy Lechan