Eight nurse-managed health clinics in Pennsylvania recognized for superb care

PHILADELPHIA (December 23, 2010) -- In a move that signifies a growing recognition among national policy makers of the expanding role of nurse practitioners in the primary care workforce, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has changed its policy to grant nurse-managed health clinics recognition as Patient-Centered Medical Homes (PCMH). The first nurse-managed health clinics (NMHCs) to receive PCMH recognition are all members of National Nursing Centers Consortium and Pennsylvania’s Chronic Care Initiative.

The outstanding performance of NMHCs is conclusive evidence that nurse-led health care practices can function as well as PCMHs. The eight nurse-managed clinics that received certification include: Project Salud of La Comunidad Hispana; Eleventh Street Family Health Services of Drexel University, Health Annex and Abbottsford Falls Family Practice and Counseling of the Family Practice and Counseling Network; PHMC Health Connection, Rising Sun Health Center, and Mary Howard Health Center of Public Health Management Corporation; and the Children’s Health Center of VNA. All of these clinics are located in Pennsylvania.

Speaking on the performance of NMHCs, Ann Torregrossa director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform said, “Recognizing and expanding the role of nurses has been at the heart of many health care reforms we've undertaken in Pennsylvania. In addition, we believe that is why many of our reforms have been so successful. For example, their work in our efforts to better manage the care of patients with chronic diseases has been critical to the overwhelming success of that initiative. This change by NCQA is smart and will pay dividends in the form of better health outcomes for patients.”

The Pennsylvania Chronic Care Management, Reimbursement and Cost Reduction Commission was created to develop a strategic plan for treating chronic disease that would improve the quality of care for those with these conditions while reducing avoidable illnesses and their costs. The Chronic Care Initiative is a PCMH project of the larger Commission involving approximately 400 primary care providers through out the state, including 50 nurse practitioners. Outcomes from the Chronic Care Initiative have been extremely positive especially for patients with chronic conditions like diabetes. 2009 data shows that diabetics participating in the initiative were 33% more likely to have control of their blood sugars, 40% more likely to have control of cholesterol levels and 25% more likely to have normal blood pressures when compared to non-participating diabetics.

“The NCQA recognition is an indication of the great work nurse-managed clinics do around the country. I am confident that NCQA’s decision combined with new funding for NMHCs created through health care reform will help these clinics make high quality, affordable primary care more accessible to the underserved. It is also my hope that NCQA’s recognition will encourage other federal and state policy makers to take similar steps to ensure that the nurse-managed model is fully supported in other areas of law and regulation. Only then will nurse-managed clinics reach their full potential as primary care providers,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, CEO of National Nursing Centers Consortium.

Nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania are also excited about NCQA’s recognition. In reaction to NCQA’s decision, Donna L. Torrisi, Director of Family Practice and Counseling Network, which has three nurse practitioner primary care practice that received NCQA recognition as Patient Centered Medical Homes, “We are thrilled to be accredited by such a prestigious organization and are spurred on now to reach level 3 Medical Home. This is an opportunity for us to reach new heights in providing the best care possible to underserved communities.”

Nancy Rothman, the Independence Foundation Professor of Urban Community Nursing at Temple University and a consultant with Public Health Management Corporation, which also has three nurse practitioner primary care practice that received NCQA recognition, added, “This is formal recognition of the quality of care provided within nurse practitioner primary care practices, while providing access to underserved populations and helping to reduce health disparities.” Executive management at the clinics are also very excited about the certifications.

“We here at the VNA are very pleased that the NCQA has recognized our nurse managed health center as a Medical Home. Seeking and receiving this qualification has improved our center, and helps us as we continue to strive for quality patient care to those most in need,” says Richard Cirko Executive Director of the Children’s Health Center of VNA Community Services.”

Margarita Queralt Mirkil, Executive Director of La Communidad Hispana, comments, “For 25 years our nurse-managed health center, Project Salud, has provided comprehensive, holistic care to the Latino population in Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. This certification is an important recognition for us. Peggy Harris, our Clinical Director, is a capable, dedicated health care provider, and I am very proud of her and our staff’s accomplishments.”

Nationally, NMHCs most often operate as safety net clinics that provide primary care, health promotion, and disease prevention services to patients who are least likely to receive ongoing health care. This population includes people of all ages who are uninsured, underinsured, living in poverty, or members of racial and ethnic minority groups. NMHCs are led by nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses who have advanced education and training that allows them to provide a broad scope of health care services similar to those of a primary care physician. NMHCs also play an important role in health professions education. More than 85 of the nation’s leading nursing schools operate nurse-managed health clinics that serve as clinical education and practice sites for nursing students and other health professionals like medical, pharmacy, social work, and public health students.