The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) has become the new standard in primary care for payers and policy makers, but what about the public? Last week, a client told me that upon rollout of their new website (one that featured a section on their "medical home"), a patient called up and asked if they had gone into the home-care business!
While it may be obvious to those of us in the healthcare industry what a "medical home" is, it is not so clear to the thousands of patients served every day by the practices that have achieved such status. So it is important to communicate to your patients about what it means to be a medical home — not just from the standpoint of marketing your practice, but also as a tool to further care coordination and patient participation in their own health outcomes.
Getting the word out
If you are in the process of working through a recognition program, think about what message you would like to send to your patients, once you have successfully achieved it. Use the opportunity to send out a wide-reaching message, for example, through a press release, which can go to patients and referral sources alike. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has a standardized press release that you could use.
If you have already achieved recognition, it's not too late to promote the fact with a "new" message. Refreshing your website with the NCQA PCMH seal, and adding it to all your practice forms and materials, will help showcase your status as well as get your patients asking questions about it, regardless of when you achieved it.
Explain what it is
Educate your patients about what it means to be a medical home. Create signs for your waiting room that ask "What is a medical home?" and provide the answer. Keep the tone and content conversational — no jargon or your message will fall flat. Put together a patient brochure about your practice and highlight medical home details there. The National Center for Medical Home Implementation has some nice templates that you can use for this purpose.
Reinforce the message
Make your PCMH status part of your marketing message and part of your practice identity. Using key terms to help facilitate understanding helps too, such as "your home for the best in medical care." You want your current patients to associate your practice with being a cut above the rest, and potential new patients to want to come to a practice that is actively engaged in working with them for their best care. Put that message out everywhere — on promotional items, publication ads, your Web and social media sites, your waiting room, even in the exam rooms!
Repeat the message frequently
Use all the social channels you have. If you are running a Facebook page, regularly post content that reminds your patients that you are a PCMH, post tips about how they can become more involved in their care, and don't be afraid to offer general advice about managing important medical conditions there. You will also want to put PCMH information and the seal on your practice website — the key to educating patients is to keep the message simple, keep the content clear, and put it in front of your patients regularly.
Don't stop at just marketing to your patients
Let your referral sources know about your status and what it means to be a medical home. Actively solicit new referrals by citing your ability to better coordinate care and follow-up tasks.
And reach out to your payers too. If they have incentives for PCMHs, ask how you can be included. If they don't, ask them why not, and what they intend to do in the future to help support this higher level of care and cost savings?
You have invested heavily in transforming your practice into a recognized PCMH, but to see a return on your investment, you must market it!
Susanne Madden, MBA, is founder and CEO of The Verden Group, a consulting and business intelligence firm that specializes in practice management, physician education, and healthcare policy. She is also COO, National Breastfeeding Center, and cofounder, Patient Centered Solutions. She can be reached at [email protected] or by visiting www.theverdengroup.com.