‘Medical home’ concept takes focus off profit-making, putting patient needs first

Julie Burke is a busy mother of three boys who has better things to do than sit in a doctor’s office waiting for an appointment.

That’s why the Sparta woman has been happy to participate in a two-year pilot program at the Sparta Clinic of Mayo Health System-Franciscan Healthcare exploring the escalating trend toward a practice called patient-centered medical home.

The concept, which adds PCMH to the large lexicon of medical acronyms, aims to involve patients more in their care, according to officials at Mayo-Franciscan and the Gundersen Health System.

Burke’s involvement included lobbying for streamlining office visits at the Sparta Clinic, which she said has occurred.

“The time sitting in the waiting room has been drastically reduced,” said Burke, 44, an apparel manager at McPherson Companies in Sparta, the business involved in the pilot.

“When I can spend more time with the doctor and less time in the waiting room, it improves all of our lives,” she said.

With boys ages 6, 9 and 12, “I’m in there a lot,” she said. “From a simple ear infection to an illness, pink eye, swimmers ear. It’s constant. They’re boys, so it’s going to be that way.”

Timing also was of the essence for 66-year-old Al Sommers of Lewiston, Minn., who had a precancerous mole he wanted removed this week.

Told that the earliest appointment from one provider was Jan. 29, he opted instead for a quick appointment with Lisa Nutter, a family nurse practitioner at Gundersen’s La Crescent clinic.

Sommers, who had gone to Nutter when she practiced in a Lewiston clinic before it closed, said he continues to see her at the Gundersen clinic for routine exams, injuries or illnesses.

“I ask for her and get scheduled right away,” he said.

When Sommers needs specialized care, he goes to a specialist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

Sommers said he also appreciates the fact that he and all of his providers have access to his records via computer.

Such is the emerging world of PCMH, which Consumer Reports characterizes as “a doctor’s office that’s all about you,” with facets including extended hours for greater patient convenience.

Gundersen Health System, where the model has been emerging since 2009, recently received PCMH certification from the National Committee for Quality Assurance for more than 30 of its sites in the 19 counties it serves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

“It’s meeting the patients where they are,” said Dr. Marilu Bintz, a medical vice president at Gundersen. “In the old model, a doctor would sit down and say, ‘Look at these numbers. You’ve got to stop smoking and lose weight and lower your cholesterol.’”

Instead, medical home “is about getting to know the patient,” including family, financial and other factors that may affect health, Bintz said.

Go to top