An Overview of the Patient-Centered Medical Home for Rural Patients, Caregivers, and Healthcare Stakeholders

The purpose of this overview is to inform you about the Patient-Centered Medical Home or PCMH. This overview will tell you what PCMH is, how it has been used in rural areas, and what we know about how it works. There will be special attention given to the “patient-centered” part of PCMH.

This overview is written specifically for rural stakeholders. Some of you may be hearing about PCMH for the first time, while others may have experience as a patient or provider involved with PCMH. In order for you to actively participate in discussions on this topic, it is important that we have a similar understanding of the Patient-Centered Medical Home. It is our hope that this overview will help you to feel excited and ready to join in conversations about PCMH.

As you will learn, PCMH involves a significant change in health care so it is hard to present a review of this topic in a short, easy-to-read summary. We have tried to provide this information as simply as we can along with real-life examples to help you understand how it applies to everyday situations.

A large number of published research articles and reports were reviewed to inform this overview. Keep in mind, however, that this overview is not a traditional academic literature review. It does not discuss all of the evidence and approaches to PCMH that are available. Also, it does not present the details of findings or cite each resource used. There is a list of main resources reviewed at the end of this report along with websites on this topic if you’d like to learn more.

Before you begin, here are a few specific reading tips:

  • Key terms are boldface within the overview and defined in the glossary which is at the end of the document. One key term that is important to understand is “primary care” or “primary health care” which means a patient’s main source for regular medical care.
  • When reading about the Patient-Centered Medical Home, you may see other terms used such as Medical Home and Health Homes. Sometimes these terms are describing programs that are the same as PCMH and sometimes they may be describing something different. For this overview, we will always use the term PCMH. 
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