Our New Year’s resolution

In 2013, Columbia Valley Community Health, a 26-provider Community Health Center in central Washington state, will take the concept of Patient Centered Medical Home to the next level (“PCMH 2.0”) through the novel use of social media tools to engage patients in healthful change, and to build virtual healing communities.

We have implemented a secure, provider-directed, social media platform, designed expressly for this task. We have started with our obstetrical patients (a young, computer-literate, highly social population). We are uploading educational content, which we post to them on a daily basis. They are sharing their pregnancy stories amongst themselves and eventually will be sharing their baby pictures, too.

Our goal is to engage patients more vigorously and more naturally in their healthcare. Our belief is that humans seek acceptance and companionship during times of stress and change. Having a community of friends experiencing the same life events in your pocket or purse, on your smartphone, provides that acceptance and companionship. Our providers will monitor the discussions, injecting appropriate teaching at the right moments and re-directing when necessary. Our providers will also upload our standard obstetrical teaching scripts onto the platform, allowing 20 minutes of provider educational time to impact all 300 of our pregnant patients simultaneously.

Once we are secure in how to use our new social media tool, we will then roll it out to our diabetic patients -- a population we frequently manage through the power of group visits -- along with exercise programs and carb-counting tools. From there we can imagine all sorts of other uses (teenage obesity, asthma, surviving cancer, etc.).

Our resolution is to leverage our patients’ social mid-brains to pioneer “PCMH 2.0.”

Malcolm Butler, MD, is a board-certified family physician and has been the medical director at Columbia Valley Community Health since 1995. He has spoken throughout the Northwest on provider incentives, management of difficult patients, capitated Medicaid, system improvement, chronic pain, opioid reduction and patient access/satisfaction.  During his tenure, Columbia Valley Community Health has become a patient-centric evidence-based Joint Commission certified Patient Centered Medical Home, with a fully integrated electronic medical record, integrated behavioral health program, and population-based chronic disease management programs. In 2005 he was named Washington State Family Physician of the Year, and in 2012 he received the NWRPCA “Summit Award.”