Patient-Centered Medical Home Characteristics and Staff Morale in Safety Net Clinics

Background: We sought to determine whether perceived patient-centered medical home (PCMH) characteristics are associated with staff morale, job satisfaction, and burnout in safety net clinics.

Methods: Self-administered survey among 391 providers and 382 clinical staff across 65 safety net clinics in 5 states in 2010. The following 5 subscales measured respondents' perceptions of PCMH characteristics on a scale of 0 to 100 (0 indicates worst and 100 indicates best): access to care and communication with patients, communication with other providers, tracking data, care management, and quality improvement. The PCMH subscale scores were averaged to create a total PCMH score.

Results: Six hundred three persons (78.0%) responded. In multivariate generalized estimating equation models, a 10% increase in the quality improvement subscale score was associated with higher morale (provider odds ratio [OR], 2.64; 95% CI, 1.47-4.75; staff OR, 3.62; 95% CI, 1.84-7.09), greater job satisfaction (provider OR, 2.45; 95% CI, 1.42-4.23; staff OR, 2.55; 95% CI 1.42-4.57), and freedom from burnout (staff OR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.31-4.12). The total PCMH score was associated with higher staff morale (OR, 2.63; 95% CI, 1.47-4.71) and with lower provider freedom from burnout (OR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.30-0.77). A separate work environment covariate correlated highly with the quality improvement subscale score and the total PCMH score, and PCMH characteristics had attenuated associations with morale and job satisfaction when included in models.

Conclusions: Providers and staff who perceived more PCMH characteristics in their clinics were more likely to have higher morale, but the providers had less freedom from burnout. Among the PCMH subscales, the quality improvement subscale score particularly correlated with higher morale, greater job satisfaction, and freedom from burnout.

Policy makers, health care organizations, and patient advocates have tended to focus on whether the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) improves patient outcomes. However, a critical question is how the PCMH influences provider and clinical staff morale, satisfaction, and burnout (MSB). Core components of the PCMH include comprehensive primary care, quality improvement, care management, and enhanced access.1,2 For many practices, the model may increase workload and significantly change staff roles. Therefore, providers and staff may be strained by the transformation that occurs with implementation of the PCMH.3 On the other hand, providers and staff might benefit from a more efficient and satisfying work environment.

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