Interventions to transform primary care practices into medical homes are increasingly common, but their effectiveness in improving quality and containing costs is unclear.
To measure associations between participation in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chronic Care Initiative, one of the earliest and largest multipayer medical home pilots conducted in the United States, and changes in the quality, utilization, and costs of care.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Thirty-two volunteering primary care practices participated in the pilot (conducted from June 1, 2008, to May 31, 2011). We surveyed pilot practices to compare their structural capabilities at the pilot’s beginning and end. Using claims data from 4 participating health plans, we compared changes (in each year, relative to before the intervention) in the quality, utilization, and costs of care delivered to 64 243 patients who were attributed to pilot practices and 55 959 patients attributed to 29 comparison practices (selected for size, specialty, and location similar to pilot practices) using a difference-in-differences design.
Pilot practices received disease registries and technical assistance and could earn bonus payments for achieving patient-centered medical home recognition by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
Main Outcomes and Measures
Practice structural capabilities; performance on 11 quality measures for diabetes, asthma, and preventive care; utilization of hospital, emergency department, and ambulatory care; standardized costs of care.
Pilot practices successfully achieved NCQA recognition and adopted new structural capabilities such as registries to identify patients overdue for chronic disease services. Pilot participation was associated with statistically significantly greater performance improvement, relative to comparison practices, on 1 of 11 investigated quality measures: nephropathy screening in diabetes (adjusted performance of 82.7% vs 71.7% by year 3, P < .001). Pilot participation was not associated with statistically significant changes in utilization or costs of care. Pilot practices accumulated average bonuses of $92 000 per primary care physician during the 3-year intervention.
Conclusions and Relevance
A multipayer medical home pilot, in which participating practices adopted new structural capabilities and received NCQA certification, was associated with limited improvements in quality and was not associated with reductions in utilization of hospital, emergency department, or ambulatory care services or total costs over 3 years. These findings suggest that medical home interventions may need further refinement.