Optimizing health care delivery by integrating workplaces, homes, and communities: how occupational and environmental medicine can serve as a vital connecting link between accountable care organizations and the patient-centered medical home.J Occup Environ Med. 2012 Apr; 54(4):504-12.JO
In recent years, the health care reform discussion in the United States has focused increasingly on the dual goals of cost-effective delivery and better patient outcomes. A number of new conceptual models for health care have been advanced to achieve these goals, including two that are well along in terms of practical development and implementation-the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) and accountable care organizations (ACOs). At the core of these two emerging concepts is a new emphasis on encouraging physicians, hospitals, and other health care stakeholders to work more closely together to better coordinate patient care through integrated goals and data sharing and to create team-based approaches that give a greater role to patients in health care decision-making. This approach aims to achieve better health outcomes at lower cost. The PCMH model emphasizes the central role of primary care and facilitation of partnerships between patient, physician, family, and other caregivers, and integrates this care along a spectrum that includes hospitals, specialty care, and nursing homes. Accountable care organizations make physicians and hospitals more accountable in the care system, emphasizing organizational integration and efficiencies coupled with outcome-oriented, performance-based medical strategies to improve the health of populations. The ACO model is meant to improve the value of health care services, controlling costs while improving quality as defined by outcomes, safety, and patient experience. This document urges adoption of the PCMH model and ACOs, but argues that in order for these new paradigms to succeed in the long term, all sectors with a stake in health care will need to become better aligned with them-including the employer community, which remains heavily invested in the health outcomes of millions of Americans. At present, ACOs are largely being developed as a part of the Medicare and Medicaid systems, and the PCMH model is still gathering momentum and evolving among physicians. But, the potential exists for implementation of both of these concepts across a much broader community of patients. By extending the well-conceived integrative concepts of the PCMH model and ACOs into the workforce via occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) physicians, the power of these concepts would be significantly enhanced. Occupational and environmental medicine provides a well-established infrastructure and parallel strategies that could serve as a force multiplier in achieving the fundamental goals of the PCMH model and ACOs. In this paradigm, the workplace-where millions of Americans spend a major portion of their daily lives-becomes an essential element, next to communities and homes, in an integrated system of health anchored by the PCMH and ACO concepts. To be successful, OEM physicians will need to think and work innovatively about how they can provide today's employer health services-ranging from primary care and preventive care to workers' compensation and disability management-within tomorrow's PCMH and ACO models.