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Published in News Stories on August 10, 2015
As Angel Allen (left) watches, UMMC family physician Dr. Shannon Pittman performs a simple eye test on Allen's daughter, Alauran, 13.
As Angel Allen (left) watches, UMMC family physician Dr. Shannon Pittman performs a simple eye test on Allen's daughter, Alauran, 13.

UMMC clinics are patients’ home base for care

Media Contact: Ruth Cummins at 601-984-1104 or ricummins@umc.edu.

When Angel Allen and her 13-year-old daughter Alauran visit Dr. Shannon Pittman at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Flowood Family Medicine clinic, they're among friends who know them well. 

"I was looking for someone who could give me continuous care," Allen said of first seeing Pittman, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, about five years ago. "Her bedside manner is so nice and personable. When she interacted with my daughter, I was so amazed that she would be so open and friendly. She makes you feel at home. You're not intimidated."

Building such close relationship requires providers and staff members to be organized in a way that maximizes coordination of care, communication between patient and caregiver, and accessibility of treatment. "She listens to all of your concerns, and she works hard to make sure she understands what's going on with you so she can give you the treatment you need," Allen said of Pittman. "You feel so comfortable when you leave."

It's that attention to detail, and to giving patients the best experience possible, that led to the Department of Family Medicine's recent recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home by the private, nonprofit National Committee for Quality Assurance based in Washington, D.C. The honor singles out Flowood Family Medicine and Lakeland Family Medicine, both under the Department of Family Medicine umbrella.

It goes to primary care clinics that are the go-to "home" for their patients' entire continuity and spectrum of care, said Dr. Diane Beebe, professor and chairman of the Department of Family Medicine.

Beebe
Beebe

"We are certainly thrilled and honored to have received this recognition. It's been a couple of years in the making," Beebe said. "But it's also a journey. It's not a destination, and this is not the end of the transformation of our practice. It's only the beginning."

Her core team that prepared Family Medicine's application for the designation includes Dr. Anthony Cloy, associate professor of family medicine and physician practice Patient-Centered Medical Home champion; Pittman, who is also medical director and residency director; Denise Mitchell, clinic business manager; Beth Wilson, administrative assistant, and Will Wood, ambulatory operations director.

The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) philosophy is the most widely used method to convert primary care clinics into medical homes, the NCQA says. The PCMH recognition "raises the bar in defining high-quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and coordinated care focused on patients," NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane said.

To earn the recognition, practices must deliver whole person care, with a health-care provider personally providing the first contact with patients, then delivering continuous and comprehensive care that is coordinated with the rest of the clinic's team.

Whole person care, the NCQA says, emphasizes routine and urgent care, mental health care, and supporting and advising patients on changing their health habits. Whole person care also includes the use of preventive care by family practitioners, general practitioners, internists and pediatricians.

"The concept is identifying the patients who call us their family physicians, and then working with them to improve their health and to proactively manage their wellness as well as their chronic diseases," Beebe said. "It's not just about waiting for a patient to call and make an appointment, and to sit in front of you during an office visit."

Instead, she said, it's about empowering patients to have a hand in their own health-care decisions as their caregivers evaluate not just what their illness is, but the everyday social determinants that play into their health.

"In a Medical Home, the staff takes ownership of the entire continuity of care for the patients they serve," Beebe said. "For instance, our practice may not offer every service or procedure that a patient needs.  But it's still our responsibility to follow that patient for everything else that's going on, know what is happening wherever they are receiving adjunct care, and follow up closely with them afterward. You don't abdicate that care."

NCQA standards say that if a practice can demonstrate that it provides whole person care and meets other elements of the Committee's joint principles for at least 75 percent of its patients, it's eligible for the recognition.

Pittman checks the healing knee of patient Charleen Chandler of McComb.
Pittman checks the healing knee of patient Charleen Chandler of McComb.

Family Medicine logs about 35,000 patient visits annually, said Billy Permenter, the department's business administrator. Those visits occur at the two clinics that received NCQA recognition, but also include patients at UMMC's two faculty practice clinics, Grants Ferry Family Medicine and the Employee Quick Care Clinic.

Family Medicine also provides physician services to student and employee health clinics at Millsaps College and the Mississippi Schools for the Blind and Deaf. The department provides collaborating physicians through the UMMC School of Nursing for nurse practitioner clinics at Johnson Elementary, Rowan Middle School and Brown Elementary in the Jackson school district and at UMMC's UNACARE Health Center, a family practice clinic in the Jackson Midtown community.

The Medical Home concept harkens back to the days when people received their primary care from a general practitioner. "Now, it's Family Medicine," Beebe said. "We've always embraced it, but we live in a world now where measurable quality and data is so much more prevalent. We can use that data and those quality measures in a very personalized fashion for the patients to improve the delivery of care."

Even so, Beebe said, today's health-care system is very fragmented, and that makes it hard to maintain longstanding patient relationships. "Patients have become compartmentalized into a disease, or an organ system," she said. "National studies have shown that people do appreciate the medical home concept of having someone in a practice that really knows them, and who is an advocate for them in the health system."

That's just what Pittman is to her, Allen said. During a recent unexpected hospitalization, the Jackson resident called on Pittman to help her on the spot.

"I'd gotten sick on a Saturday, and no one seemed to know immediately what was wrong," Allen said. "I got on my phone in my bed and emailed her, and said, 'I'm here. Help!' "

Pittman quickly responded, finding a medical specialist for Allen. "She contacted them, and I got an appointment," Allen said. "Dr. Pittman was my go-to person to get my issues resolved."

Beebe and her staff already are reaching for the next levels of recognition from NCQA and intensifying their focus on team-centered care.

"You don't just get this recognition and say, 'Did that. Put it on the shelf,'  " she said. "It's a constant improvement. We are looking at more ways, with more data and outreach, to be a better medical home a year from now than we are now."

Interested in visiting one of our family medicine clinics?

Lakeland Family Medicine Center
764 Lakeland Drive, second floor
Jackson, MS 39216

Flowood Family Medicine Center
2466 Flowood Drive
Flowood, MS 39232

Both clinics are open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments are preferred; call (601) 984-6800. Walk-ins and same-day appointments are also welcome.