HEROS Receives $1 Million for Healthcare Reform

Expectations and burdens on Primary Care Practices in New Mexico are growing, with a looming crisis come 2014 when, as part of healthcare reform, approximately 400,000 currently uninsured New Mexicans will become Medicaid-eligible and will seek primary care medical homes. How will this new influx of patients be accommodated and how will the quality of care they receive be assured? Who will help New Mexico’s primary care practices, most of which are small and independent, adjust to this new practice reality?

UNM HSC Health Extension Rural Offices (HEROs) Program is one of four programs nationally to receive a $1 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The grant is entitled “Infrastructure for Maintaining Primary Care Transformation (IMPaCT): Support for Models of Multi-Sector, State-Level Excellence.” The purpose of the grants is to support model state-level initiatives using primary care extension agents in small and medium sized independent primary care practices to assist with primary care re-design and transformation.

Smaller, primary care practices—the predominant mode of delivering primary care in New Mexico, do not have the resources enjoyed by larger delivery systems to implement a Patient-Centered Medical Home, to hire health educators or to easily access electronic medical library resources,” said Art Kaufman, M.D., Vice Chancellor for Community Health.

The IMPaCT grants grew out of a section of the Affordable Care Act legislation, partially written by Kaufman and Wayne Powell, Associate Director of the Office for Community Health (ret). Other states receiving funding were North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Each funded state is expected to bring in three other states, so the IMPaCT grant will eventually affect 16 states, thereby creating a national Primary Care Health Extension movement. The states that approached New Mexico and were accepted as its partners were Oregon, Kansas and Kentucky.

“The AHRQ investment in the IMPaCT initiative is a first step toward building our capacity to provide a quality infrastructure that supports primary care practices in delivering the high quality, affordable, patient-centered care,” said David Meyers, MD, Director of AHRQ’s Center for Primary Care, Prevention, and Clinical Partnerships, where management for each project is organized. “These states represent national models and we are excited to be able to help them expand their efforts to more practices and to share their experience with the nation.”

“In 2014, practices that already are operating with overstretched resources, will be expected to adopt electronic medical records, and offer a level of access to care while meeting an expanded set of quality standards,” said Kaufman. “Our Health Extension program will offer coaches to help in PCMH transformation and help connect practices to ‘shared resources,’ such as a menu of telehealth services, access to community health outreach workers, decision-support from on-line library resources, locum tenens practice relief and assistance in recruiting providers and staff.”

UNM’s HEROs program will work with the UNM Medical Group and its specialty services and programs, LCF Research, First Choice Community Health, Hidalgo Medical Services, the UNM Branch Campus in Taos, the New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Program and New Mexico’s Aligning Forces for Quality in assisting 50 primary care practices across the state. The practices will be assisted in undergoing practice transformation toward a Patient-Centered Medical Home and a Community-Centered Health Home—whereby quality of care for patients and the health of communities served are both improved. The UNM HSC Center for Community and Rural Behavioral Health will evaluate the project.

Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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