Redefining primary pediatric care for children with special health care needs: the primary care medical home

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Abstract

Purpose of review

As considerations of the quality of health care have matured, the role of pediatric primary care providers and models for the delivery of primary care have received growing attention. Particularly for children with chronic conditions, the need for proactive, planned, and coordinated care delivered in partnership with consumers has become more apparent. The primary care medical home has emerged as a model favored by national organizations representing pediatricians and family physicians as well as national public health policy makers, yet implementation of this model remains limited and the evidence base for its value is not yet highly developed.

Recent findings

Most studies of primary care outcomes involve individual elements of the medical home such as care coordination and continuity of care. Limited data that are emerging from studies of the medical home model as a whole in practice settings suggest improvements in patient satisfaction and in some areas of utilization. No data are available that examine specific functional or physical health outcomes associated with primary care models like the medical home.

Summary

The pediatric primary care medical home provides a care model for both well children and those with special health care needs that expands primary care services beyond those provided in the examination room by individual providers to include systemic services such as patient registries, explicit care planning and care coordination, planned co-management with specialists, patient advocacy, and patient education. There is an immediate need for large-scale, practice-based studies of the outcomes for children and youth, providers, and the health care system when such improvements in primary care are implemented.

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