Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Office Manager: A Member of the Patient Centered Medical Home Team You Never Heard Of

Which one is the practice manager?
Ask the average primary health care policy wonk about the make-up of the Patient Centered Medical Home team and you're likely to get an elevator speech that includes some or all of the key words "pharmacists,"" social workers," "nurse care managers," "nurse practitioners," "physician assistants," "dieticians," "health educators," "respiratory therapists," "psychologists" or "navigators." 

If that's all you hear, tell that wonk they only know part of the story.

That's what the Disease Management Care Blog discovered when it was preparing for its talk at the upcoming CME Start Ratings Master Class Conference that will be held Dec 9-10 in Fort Lauderdale.

It turns out that every primary care office ultimately has one person charged with making sure that the office "workflows" are running smoothly.  When patients register, use the waiting room, have their vital signs and medications reviewed, are asked about pain, are prompted to share other concerns, are moved to the examining room and subsequently get checked out with a follow-up appointments or referrals, there is a maestro in the background charged with making sure the trains run on time.

Meet the office practice manager, the hidden part of the health care team who you never heard of.

In case you think they don't matter, think again.  They have their own trade association and are making their opinions known when it comes to health reform. If a health insurer or practice association needs the primary care clinic to implement a "medical home," you can be sure that it will be up to the practice manager to make it happen.  You ignore that person at your care-coordination peril.

The message for insurers, delivery systems and population health service providers is that physician buy-in is very necessary, but may not be sufficient.  After the doc says OK, medical home advocates would be well advised to find the practice manager and work closely with that individual.

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