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NEWS | July 1, 2013

Client-centered clinics: Medical 'homes' for Soldiers

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As a Soldier walks into Troop Medical Clinic 2's doors. Recently returned from a long deployment, it seems his allergies have struck yet again. Due to his sensitivity to common medication and latex, he prepares himself for a long visit.

He hears his name called, and is surprised to see the exact same medic he saw downrange. The Soldier is out the door in less than 45 minutes, never once having to mention his medical history.

Without the implementation of the Patient Centered Medical Home project at Fort Eustis, Va., this Soldier might still be waiting for his doctor to look through his medical records.

"The whole purpose behind PCMH is to improve quality of care," said Samara Walker, McDonald Army Health Center PCMH project manager. "I consider continuity of care fundamental to that purpose."

The PCMH project, implemented in January 2013, was created to give Soldiers a steady line of medical treatment from doctors and staff who know their patients, not just their records. As the first clinic implementing the PCMH approach, TMC2 at Fort Eustis has already met several of their goals.

"Before TMC2, only 30 to 40 percent of patients saw the same doctor consistently," said Sgt. 1st Class Cassandra Alam, TMC2 noncommissioned officer in charge. "Now, more than 60 percent of our patients see their own provider."

This continuity of care also expands into the deployed environment. Medics from around the base work in the clinic, so often when units deploy, they will see the same medics they worked with at Fort Eustis.

To maintain quality of care, TMC2 only services permanent party, active-duty Soldiers stationed at Fort Eustis. However, there are plans to expand the PCMH program to other clinics.

"TMC2 was the first clinic to adopt the PCMH style of care, but it won't be the only one," said Walker. "We plan to add five more clinics to the PCMH list."

Walker continually stressed the importance of patient satisfaction through the patient's stay at TMC2. Sgt. 1st Class Danny Weatherly, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command training programs writer, expressed those same sentiments.

"I have been going to the main [health center] for the past four years," said Weatherly. "This was my first visit, and I am happy with the change."

Weatherly explained the convenience of the in-house pharmacy and spoke about the convenient location, but he also felt the care was different.

"It is fantastic to put a face to who is working with me on my own health," said Weatherly. "More importantly, I am confident my doctor knows what he is talking about."

Anyone looking to be seen at TMC2 should schedule an appointment through their normal channels, and from there, the health center staff will decide where a patient will go. Non-permanent party Soldiers will not be seen at the clinic, though that can change if they become permanent party.

From the front lines to the front desk, the PCMH approach to care is on the rise. In the future Walker and Alam hope to hear more stories like Weatherly's, and continue quality of care at Fort Eustis.