Column: Your Healthcare Team – a Medical Neighborhood
August 7, 2014
Your health depends on more than just where you go for your primary care and how often you go. Your health also depends on your entire health care team and how well they interact with you and your other providers. Most importantly, your health depends on you managing your own health, with the support of your health care team.
Your primary care provider is your medical home. She is responsible for focusing on your health as a whole in the most cost-effective manner possible. She is also responsible for working with your entire health care team to make all of your health care visits, wherever and with whomever, as seamless as possible.
Your health care team is your medical neighborhood. All of your health care providers — including specialists, physical therapists, dentists, eye care providers, mental health counselors, nutritionists, chiropractors, and pharmacists — make up your medical neighborhood. It is important to understand that each of these providers work on a piece of you that adds up to you as a whole person. Each field and profession is specialized; however, these providers are trained to know how their specialty interacts with the rest of the body. They know their specialty is part of the greater medical system whose goal is to keep you healthy.
Each professional member in your medical neighborhood is a point of access for your medical home. They do not take the place of medical homes or primary care providers. Instead, they communicate with your medical home to update her on your progress and health in their specialty. They are an integral part of the medical home team, or medical neighborhood, collaborating and communicating to benefit you.
Patients in a medical neighborhood experience better health outcomes, improvements in patient safety, improved efficiency, and reduced cost. Patients also receive the right care at the right time and in the right place. Most importantly, it promotes shared decision-making, with you as the leader or manager.
You are the center of your medical home, just as you are the center of your personal home. All personal or family homes are part of neighborhoods with a variety of neighbors. Your medical home is part of a greater neighborhood — your medical neighborhood — with a variety of health care providers and community members. Other valuable members of your medical neighborhood include your family and friends, schools and school nurses, social workers, peer programs, community resources, churches or spiritual home, patient navigators, home health, hospice, hospitals, and other long-term care services. All of these people work to make sure you are as healthy as possible.
But this ideal medical neighborhood only works when each provider knows about the other services you receive. Your role is the single most important role in the entire medical neighborhood — informing each member in your medical neighborhood about your primary care provider or medical home. And in turn, informing your medical home about each member in your neighborhood. Only then can your entire medical team truly create a medical neighborhood with you at the center, focusing on your entire health.