Seven clinics associated with Providence Medical Group have been designated as patient-centered medical homes by a national organization.

The National Committee of Quality Assurance designated the seven western Montana clinics, out of a total of only 23 in the state.

Dr. Robert Stenger, M.D. at Grant Creek Family Medicine explained the meaning of being designated a patient-centered medical home.

"It's a special designation for primary care clinics, meaning we've gone through a recognition process and met a number of standards  set out for us," Stenger said. "Some of those criteria include setting same-day appointments for patients, making sure that we're measuring and improving the quality of care, and management of chronic disease, a whole host of things that go into that recognition."

Stenger said the goal is to catch medical problems early, so that patients don't end up in the hospital facing an operation or a long-term stay.

"It's all about primary care," Stenger said. "We're trying to make our healthcare model work better and get people into healthcare at the front end. We want everybody to have a primary physician, a provider they know and trust that they can see so they can hopefully get a lot of things prevented before they develop major medical problems."

Stenger said the Providence clinics will be more aggressive in their approach to healthcare.

"With the medical home concept, we try to put a lot of systems in place to make sure we're being proactive with our patients," Stenger said. "We're making sure we're monitoring their preventive care and reaching out to them when they need tests and interventions. We're monitoring chronic diseases very closely to keep people healthy. One of the most important things is making sure that they have the access, so that when patients are sick they can get in to see us the same day, rather than having to go to the urgent care clinic or to the hospital."

A news release from Providence stated that there are three levels of NCQA accreditation, levels one, two and three. Providence St. Joseph Medical Clinic in Polson has attained level three status, the highest and most difficult to achieve. All the other Providence Medical Group medical homes are at the level two status.

Stenger said all the clinics are now taking new patients, and a new telephone number has been established, 1-855-PMG-TEAM (1-855-764-8326).

Robert Stenger M.D.