Fort Smith Family Medical Center Earns Patient-Centered Recognition

Tabi Imran, M.D., left, Tim Spradlin, M.D., both faculty at UAMS West, visit with Saadia Qasim, M.D., a physician in residency training at UAMS West. 

Fort Smith Family Medical Center at UAMS West recently earned patient-centered medical home Level III recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

July 8, 2013 | For nearly three years, physicians, nurses and staff at the Fort Smith Family Medical Center at UAMS West have worked hard to move the primary care clinic toward the new patient-centered medical home model. Recently, their efforts were rewarded.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) awarded Level III — the highest level patient-centered medical home (PCMH) recognition — to the Fort Smith Family Medical Center after it earned a score of 99 of a possible 100 in its Level III assessment.

UAMS West is a regional center of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). UAMS Family Medical Center Fort Smith, a division of UAMS West, provides preventive, acute, chronic, pediatric and obstetrical primary care services for thousands of patients in Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. The program provides tremendous educational opportunities for the residency training of new physicians in primary care as well as students in medicine, pharmacy and nursing.

The NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care. It has worked with leading national medical organizations like the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians to develop PCMH recognition standards.

It is an indication to our patients, resident applicants and students who want to come here that we are a state-of-the-art facility that provides excellent patient care,” said Don Heard, UAMS West director. “Our goals are to improve the health care of Arkansans and offer an excellent teaching environment.”

The patient-centered medical home creates partnerships between individual patients, their physicians and the patient’s family. Care is facilitated by registries, information technology and health information exchange, so patients get the appropriate care when and where they need and want it.

“The PCMH model has taken the discipline of family medicine by storm and has been recognized as a model that along with primary care in general will form the foundation of the new health care system of the future,” said Mark Mengel, M.D., UAMS vice chancellor of regional programs. “Not only do patients in practices with the PCMH model show improved outcomes, but reduced total health care costs, improved patient satisfaction, and improved provider satisfaction. It's a winning formula for all concerned.”

Mengel credited Heard, his collaborative leadership style, and the passion and skill of the health care team at the Family Medical Center in Fort Smith for achieving Level III recognition.

In 2012, several of the regional family medical centers, including the Fort Smith center, earned Level II status. UAMS spent $6-$8 million to hire additional personnel and purchase information technology to better integrate patient care at the regional centers. New software was used to create a disease registry and standardize data entry for electronic medical records.

Although some additional investment was made in hardware and software at the Family Medical Center to get to Level III, much of the effort was directed at improving work flows, Heard said. Doing that took the regional center’s 78.75 score for Level II to the 99 points and Level III.

At UAMS West, a Quality Improvement Committee helped oversee and guide the effort. Its co-chairs are Katherine Irish-Clardy, M.D., Virginia King, R.N., PCMH coordinator; and John Vinson, Pharm.D., director of pharmacy education.

King, PCMH coordinator at the Fort Smith Family Medical Center, said the improved work flows mean patients will get medical test results back sooner. For patients, it also means same-day appointments, quickly answered telephone calls, an on-call physician they can reach after hours and on weekends, and overall improved care coordination.

“It’s  good to know that our patients are getting better care from an objective point of view by looking at their lab values, patient outcomes and hospitalizations,” Vinson said. “Improving patient outcomes is the most challenging part but also the most important. It is rewarding to see a patient refer their mom or sister to our clinic as a result of their high satisfaction with their diabetes care. It is even more rewarding to know that lives are being saved as a result of increased vaccination rates, increased rates of cancer screenings, and improved control of chronic illnesses.”  

King said many of the ideas for an improved patient experience have been generated from the newly formed Patient Advisory Council.  This council and strategically located patient suggestion boxes provide feedback, suggestions and ideas to continually improve quality and patient care experiences.

NCQA also has recognized two UAMS West faculty members — Irish-Clardy and Elisa Spradlin, M.D. — and the clinic as a whole as providing quality care in diabetes.

Mengel said the seven Family Medical Centers in UAMS’ five other regional centers are on track to achieve Level III by 2014.

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