Patient-Centered Medical Care with Alaska Native people at Southcentral Foundation

Driscoll_David_2_1Dr. David L. Driscoll is Director, Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies and Associate Dean for Research at the College of Health at University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Driscoll’s research combines epidemiological and anthropological methods to link population-level health data and sociocultural context in order to assess and create effective public health programs. He has more than 10 years of experience working for a host of federal agencies and research foundations and associations. His recent paper, titled “Process and outcomes of patient-centered medical care with Alaska Native people at Southcentral Foundation” was published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine.

Background of the study

The Alaska Native and American Indian people experience poorer health outcomes than the overall US population. Access to quality health care represents one component of a comprehensive program to reduce health disparities in these populations. The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model has been shown to improve primary care quality, access, and health outcomes and is postulated to be an effective approach for reducing health disparities in preventive and chronic disease care.

Our study describes key elements of the transition to a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model at Southcentral Foundation (SCF), a tribally owned and managed primary care system, and evaluates changes in emergency care use for any reason, for asthma, and for unintentional injuries, during and after the transition.

Key findings

All reported measures of emergency care use showed a decreasing trend after the PCMH implementation. Before the implementation, overall use and use for unintentional injuries had been increasing. The combined quantitative and qualitative results were consistent with decreased emergency care use resulting from a decreased need for emergency care services due to increased availability of primary care services and same-day appointments.

Next steps

An important next step in this field is to better understand potential causes for the observed trends in emergency care use over time. To this end, we plan to review qualitative findings for contextual information that may support or refute alternative hypotheses that are consistent with the results of this time series analysis

About the department

The Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS) is located within the University of Alaska and provides support and coordination for health research, information, and training. ICHS was created by the Alaska State Legislature in 1988 to develop new solutions to health problems in Alaska and the north.

The Institute maintains collaborative relationships with organizations within the University and outside the University. Working closely with faculty, ICHS provides technical assistance and support to increase the capacity within the state to address the health needs of all Alaskans. ICHS also encourages student involvement through academic course work, internships, and research assistantships