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The (Missed) Potential of the Patient-centered Medical Home for Disparities

Reibling, Nadine, PhD*; Rosenthal, Meredith B., PhD

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000451
Original Articles

Background: Disparities in health care and health outcomes are a significant problem in the United States. Delivery system reforms such as the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) could have important implications for disparities.

Objectives: To investigate what role disparities play in current PCMH initiatives and how their set-up might impact on disparities.

Research Design: We selected 4 state-based PCMH initiatives (Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island), 1 regional initiative in New Orleans, and 1 multistate initiative. We interviewed 30 key actors in these initiatives and 3 health policy experts on disparities in the context of PCMH. Interview data were coded using the constant comparative method.

Results: We find that disparities are not an explicit priority in PCMH initiatives. Nevertheless, many policymakers, providers, and initiative leaders believe that the model has the potential to reduce disparities. However, because of the funding structure of initiatives and the lack of adjustment of quality metrics, health policy experts do not share this optimism and safety-net providers report concerns and frustration.

Conclusion: Even though disparities are currently not a priority in the PCMH community, the design of initiatives has important implications for disparities.

*Department of Social Sciences, University of Siegen, Germany

Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Boston, MA

Funding for this work came from a Harkness Fellowship in Healthcare Policy and Practice from The Commonwealth Fund, a national, private foundation based in New York City that supports independent research on health care issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Nadine Reibling, PhD, Department of Social Sciences, University of Siegen, Adolf-Reichwein-Str. 2, Siegen 57068, Germany. E-mail:

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.