Implementation of Medical Homes in Federally Qualified Health Centers

Published in: New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 377, Number 3 (July 2017), pages 246-256. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa1616041

Posted on RAND.org on September 13, 2017

by Justin W. Timbie, Claude Messan Setodji, Amii M. Kress, Tara Lavelle, Mark W. Friedberg, Peter Mendel, Emily K. Chen, Beverly A. Weidmer, Christine Buttorff, Rosalie Malsberger, Mallika Kommareddi, Afshin Rastegar, Aaron Kofner, Liisa Hiatt, Ammarah Mahmud, Katherine D. Giuriceo, Katherine L. Kahn

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Background

From 2011 through 2014, the Federally Qualified Health Center Advanced Primary Care Practice Demonstration provided care management fees and technical assistance to a nationwide sample of 503 federally qualified health centers to help them achieve the highest (level 3) medical-home recognition by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a designation that requires the implementation of processes to improve access, continuity, and coordination.

Methods

We examined the achievement of medical-home recognition and used Medicare claims and beneficiary surveys to measure utilization of services, quality of care, patients' experiences, and Medicare expenditures in demonstration sites versus comparison sites. Using difference-in-differences analyses, we compared changes in outcomes in the two groups of sites during a 3-year period.

Results

Level 3 medical-home recognition was awarded to 70% of demonstration sites and to 11% of comparison sites. Although the number of visits to federally qualified health centers decreased in the two groups, smaller reductions among demonstration sites than among comparison sites led to a relative increase of 83 visits per 1000 beneficiaries per year at demonstration sites (P<0.001). Similar trends explained the higher performance of demonstration sites with respect to annual eye examinations and nephropathy tests (P<0.001 for both comparisons); there were no significant differences with respect to three other process measures. Demonstration sites had larger increases than comparison sites in emergency department visits (30.3 more per 1000 beneficiaries per year, P<0.001), inpatient admissions (5.7 more per 1000 beneficiaries per year, P=0.02), and Medicare Part B expenditures ($37 more per beneficiary per year, P=0.02). Demonstration-site participation was not associated with relative improvements in most measures of patients' experiences.

Conclusions

Demonstration sites had higher rates of medical-home recognition and smaller decreases in the number of patients' visits to federally qualified health centers than did comparison sites, findings that may reflect better access to primary care relative to comparison sites. Demonstration sites had larger increases in emergency department visits, inpatient admissions, and Medicare Part B expenditures.

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