CHA Union Square Family Health Center Recognized as National Model of Innovative Primary Care Practice


Somerville, Mass. — CHA's Union Square Family Health center is among 30 clinics nationwide selected as an Exemplar Primary Care Practice by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Group Health Research Institute, who have teamed up on a new initiative to identify practice innovations that make primary care more efficient, effective, and satisfying to patients and providers. The Primary Care Team: Learning from Effective Ambulatory Practices (LEAP) project identifies primary care practices that have focused on teamwork and new roles for health professionals in ways that support consistently outstanding primary care. CHA Union Square Family Health, located at 26 Central Street in Somerville, was selected through a rigorous national process to receive the designation.

“We are deeply proud of our Union Square team for this remarkable accomplishment,” said Gerald Steinberg, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Cambridge Health Alliance. “We are pleased that our successful work in the development and implementation of our patient-centered medical homes may be a model for thought leaders and stakeholders across the country, and excited for the improvement in our patients' health and experience."

The goal of the LEAP project is to identify and share innovative staffing arrangements that make primary care more accessible and effective for patients. A LEAP team conducted a three-day site visit to understand how the Union Square Family Health primary care team delivers high quality, patient-centered health care. The exemplar practices will then join together in October in a learning community to share best practices and distill their innovations into training and technical assistance materials that can be used by others.

CHA Union Square Family Health will be influential in developing creative workforce models that will be disseminated to primary care practices nationwide. It is an advanced medical home practice that uses a team-based system of care to achieve substantial improvements in the health of its patient population. The practice transformed its culture in order to be more patient-centered, with a focus on preventive care and better chronic disease management, including a diabetes treatment program that has seen dramatic results since its inception. CHA Union Square Family Health received the highest level of medical home recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and participates in a statewide medical home demonstration project designed to lower costs and improve care. Additionally, national and international conferences have showcased the practice, with team members invited to present on the processes used to drive its transformation.

“Now more than ever, the country recognizes that a great health care system has to build on a strong primary care foundation. We are seeing innovation all over the country, particularly in the area of primary care but there has been little study of how practices have redefined traditional roles and developed a team approach to caring for patients,” commented Margaret Flinter, PhD, APRN, LEAP project co-director and senior vice president and clinical director of the Community Health Center, Inc. and director of its Weitzman Center for Innovation. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to study these innovations that improve patient and practice outcomes and share them so they can be replicated."

Named for a Group Health founder and pioneering physician, W.A. MacColl, MD, the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation at Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) was established in 1992 by Ed Wagner, MD, MPH, who is a senior investigator and founding director of GHRI. In the mid-1990s, the Center developed the Chronic Care Model, a widely endorsed and adopted approach to improving ambulatory care that has guided clinical quality initiatives in the United States and internationally. The Center was also the home of Improving Chronic Illness Care, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program that has been involved in further developing, testing, and disseminating Chronic Care Model-based clinical improvement efforts. To learn more about this work, visit For information on Group Health Research Institute, go to

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For more than 40 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

Cambridge Health Alliance is an integrated, award-winning health system that provides high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices, and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine. For more information, visit