A friend of mine is writing a memoir about the two decades he's spent working stupid jobs. Toiling in grad school and earning the letters MFA after his name didn't keep him from having to haul barns and park cars, just to make a living before someone would recognize the value of those letters and the talent behind them.

Apply the same concept to medical homes. What started as an idea has now reached the big time: earning official medical home certification from the NCQA, TJC, URAC and other acronym-friendly organizations. But what do these letters really mean?

Payers are asking themselves the same question. A May 2011 study by the Urban Institute compared 10 tools currently being used to measure medical home readiness and capability, and it also discussed the factors payers should consider in choosing a tool. (Click here to access the study.) The tools included those from national accrediting organizations such as NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance) and The Joint Commission (TJC); private organizations such as TransforMED and the Center for Medical Home Improvement; and state-specific efforts in Minnesota, Oklahoma and BlueCross BlueShield of Michigan.

In assessing the content areas, evaluation methodologies, and operational requirements of these tools, the Urban Institute identified questions that payers should be asking themselves:

  • Is PCMH certification in keeping with the payers operational, fiscal and strategic goals?
  • How does the payer select a tool that reflects these goals?
  • Should the payer develop its own tools?
  • Should the payer tie certification to payments/incentives?
  • How can payers align certification with healthcare reform?

What's the next step for medical home designation. We'll see.

As for my friend. He's getting paid to write now but is still questioning the value of what he does. I'll tell him you asked about him.

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