The Medical Home at 50: Are Children With Medical Complexity the Key to Proving Its Value?

Published:April 27, 2017DOI:


      The medical home has been widely promoted as a model of primary care with the potential to transform the health care delivery system. Although this model was initially focused on children with chronic conditions, the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed a generalization of the model, promoting the statement, “Every child deserves a medical home.” Recently, other major professional and governmental organizations have embraced this more inclusive vision, and the medical home concept has been promoted in provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Yet, rigorous evaluations of the value of the medical home, within pediatrics and beyond, have been limited, and the results have been mixed. Early results from large demonstration projects in adults have generally noted modest improvements in quality without accompanying reductions in cost. At this critical period in health care, with widespread interest in health care delivery and payment reform, these results present a potential threat to the medical home. Understanding possible reasons for these early findings is crucial to sustaining the spread of the medical home beyond its first 50 years. With this aim, we review the history of the medical home and trends in child health, and we explore the concepts of value and complexity as they pertain to pediatric health care delivery. We propose that, because of the demographic characteristics and economics of child health and current policy imperatives with regard to health care, a strong value proposition for the medical home in pediatrics involves children with medical complexity.


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