Nearly half of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, and that number is growing (American Association of Retired Persons; Fried, 2017; Tinker, 2017).  Chronic diseases—including cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, respiratory diseases, arthritis, obesity, and oral diseases—can lead to hospitalization, long-term disability, reduced quality of life, and death.  Additionally, chronic diseases often require a long period of supervision, observation, or care (Rothman, & Wagner, 2003). To make matters more complicated, many patients have multiple morbidities, creating particular challenges for healthcare providers (Braillard, Slama-Chaudhry, Joly, Perone, & Beran, 2018).

As Reynolds, et al, explain in their 2018 article, “the defining features of primary care (including continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness) makes this setting suitable for managing chronic conditions” (Reynolds, Dennis, Hasan, Slewa, Chen, et al., 2018).  High-performing primary care teams keep the “quadruple aim” of primary care—enhancing the care experience, improving the health of the population, reducing costs, and improving the work-life of the team—at the forefront of their work (Haverfield, Tierney, Schwartz, Bass, Brown-Johnson, et al, 2020). Studies repeatedly bear this out, demonstrating that an integrated approach with an aim to improve the quality of life of patients—as well as those caring for them—can enhance chronic disease outcomes and management.  As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, it cannot afford not to invest in primary care.

Bodenheimer’s Building Blocks

Current literature discussing characteristics of best primary care practices supports three well-proven methods:

  1. Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) standards from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (Hahn, Gonzalez, Etz, & Crabtree, 2014),
  2. the Peterson Center on Health Care’s “America’s Most Valuable Care: Primary Care” (Peterson Center on Health Care, & Stanford Medicine Clinical Excellence Research Center, 2014), and
  3. the Building Blocks framework commonly known as Bodenheimer’s Building Blocks. (Bodenheimer, Ghorob, Willard-Grace, & Kevin Grumbach, 2014).

Each of these models is similar, often reinforcing one another yet each with its unique benefits.  Inspired by a conversation with Tanya Kapka, MD, MPH, FAAFP, a leader in healthcare transformation, this article will focus on four specific areas within Bodenheimer’s Building Blocks: Engaged Leadership, Data-Driven Improvement, Empanelment, and Team-Based Care (see graphic). These four blocks are foundational in the quest for clinical excellence in primary care.

Block 1: Engaged leadership

One of the most commonly cited reasons for failed PCMH change efforts is a lack of leadership support (Qureshi, Quigley, & Hays, 2020).  Active, engaged, supportive leadership is not a new necessity, nor is its importance limited to healthcare. The role is critical in Comprehensive Primary Care transformation (Altman Dautoff, Philips, & Manning, 2013). Leaders are the ones who drive and inspire change.  Without a leader to champion the change and navigate teams through its complexities, then the aspiration for developing excellence will never be attained.

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Author: Seleem ChoudhuryDr. Seleem R. Choudhury, DNP, is an international clinician and operational executive with a demonstrated record of exceeding clinical and financial metrics, developing talent, redeveloping strategy and service lines in academic hospitals and health systems and community settings, and being a positive deviant facilitating change within healthcare.