The Disease Management Care Blog recently received a curious email from the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative. As readers may recall, this is the Washington DC-based coalition that advocates on behalf of the Patient Centered Medical Home(PCMH).
The content of that rather defensive communication can be found here.
What provoked this? The premier internal medicine specialty journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine, published a comprehensive review of the peer-reviewed literature on the PCMH, and its authors skeptically concluded:
The PCMH holds promise for improving the experiences of patients and staff and potentially for improving care processes, but current evidence is insufficient to determine effects on clinical and most economic outcomes
Ouch. No "economic outcomes" means that there is no proof that the PCMH saves money.
Unlike the PCPCC membership, regular DMCB readers aren't surprised. For example, the DMCB pointed out months ago that the U.S. government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality ("AHRQ") had concluded the same thing. Countless other DMCB posts on the medical home have pointed out that there were problems with the published PCMH literature (for example, here and here).
Thanks to a past Congressional Budget Office report, the DMCB feels the PCPCC pain. It also knows that a) finding statistically significant cost savings in health insurance data bases are notoriously difficult, b) successful medical home initiatives that are outside the academisphere are the least likely to be reported it in the peer-reviewed literature, c) "savings" isn't the only measure of patient value and d) journals like the Annals of Internal Medicine are being sidelined by innovators who are more astute judges of what works for their patients.
What's changed for the medical home and the PCPCC after this unpleasant dust-up? Ultimately nothing. Pairing nurses and physicians in team-based care, whether it's done remote telephonic "disease management" style or in the clinic "medical home" style is ultimately a good idea with obvious face validity. The Annals' problem is that we don't have pristine scientific methodologies that can identify, capture and measure the benefit.
The good news is that the science is getting better. Until it catches up, the population health and disease management service providers will remain in business and the medical home will continue to have a bright future.