25 for 25: A series of 25 blog posts marking NCQA’s 25th Anniversary.
Although NCQA had been recognizing physicians and physician practices for several years, the launch of the PCMH recognition program in 2008 stands out as a turning point for the organization. The PCMH program meant that NCQA Recognition was no longer reserved for a specific type of physician who treated patients with specific illnesses or conditions. Now, PCMH recognition was possible for any practice that could meet its tough standards.
It’s difficult to quantify the impact of a program like PCMH recognition. Does it make a difference if a patient’s care is coordinated, or that a single provider is responsible for coordinating all her care? Does it make a difference if a patient has access to his medical records, or has a secure way to communicate electronically with his physician? Does it make a difference if a missed appointment generates a follow up call?
A growing body of knowledge suggests that it makes a lot of difference. But the biggest impact of NCQA PCMH Recognition may simply be that it introduces accountability at the physician level of the health care system.
In 2008 the PCMH model was still a relatively new idea, albeit one that generated an enormous amount of health media coverage. It was being hailed as the practice model that would change everything: how doctors worked, how information flowed in the care system, how patients interacted with providers, how practices were compensated. A handful of leading medical societies were promoting it—several large employers were its cheerleaders, offering incentives to practices to adopt the new model and earn recognition.
Practices took note. Over the ensuing seven years, interest has only grown stronger. Today, more than 43,000 physicians (about 17% of physicians in America) work in a practice that holds NCQA PCMH Recognition. And about 15% of NCQA’s staff is devoted exclusively to supporting PCMH practices and managing the continuous stream of data they submit.