Early Changes in VA Medical Home Components and Utilization


Objectives: In 2010, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) began national implementation of its patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model, called Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs), to improve access, coordination, and patient-centered care. We evaluated changes in reported implementation of PCMH components in all VA primary care clinics, and patients’ utilization of acute and non-acute care and total costs after 2 years.

Study Design: Longitudinal study of 2,607,902 patients from 796 VA primary care clinics.

Methods: Clinics were surveyed for their implementation of PCMH components. Patient outcomes were measured by outpatient visits for primary care, specialty care, telephone care, and emergency department (ED) care; hospitalizations for an ambulatory care–sensitive condition (ACSC); and costs of VA care in fiscal years (FYs) 2009 and 2011. Multi-level, multivariable models predicted changes in utilization and costs, adjusting for patients’ health status, clinic PCMH component scores, and a patient fixed effect.

Results: Clinics reported large improvements in adoption of all PCMH components from FY 2009 to FY 2011. Higher organization of practice scores was associated with fewer primary care visits (P = .012). Greater care coordination/transitions was modestly associated with more specialty care visits (P = .010) and fewer ED visits (P = .018), but quality/performance improvement was associated with more ED visits (P = .032). None of the PCMH components were significantly related to telephone visits, ACSC hospitalizations, or total healthcare costs.

Conclusions: Improvements under organization of practice and care coordination/transitions appear to have impacted outpatient care, but reductions in acute care were largely absent.

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