LITTLE ROCK — A second phase of enrollment has begun for the state’s medical home program, the state Department of Human Services said Tuesday.

The program is part of the Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative, which seeks to lower health care costs and improve outcomes for patients. Key elements of the program, which is being phased in gradually, include paying health care providers in certain areas of treatment for episodes of care rather than for each service provided and rewarding providers for high-quality, cost-effective care.

DHS said 637 primary care physicians are currently participating in the medical home program, which uses financial incentives to encourage physicians to focus on management of chronic medical conditions, prevention and empowerment of patients through health education.

Participating physicians receive supplemental monthly payments to help them coordinate care and are able to share in savings generated by the program.

The first phase of enrollment ended Dec. 16, but a second phase is underway and will run through May 15. Physicians who enroll during the phase will begin participating July 1.

Enrollment for participation in 2015 will open on Oct. 1 of this year.

"Arkansas Medicaid and private insurers have been working aggressively over the last two years toward a more efficient and effective health care system," Dr. William Golden, medical director for the state Medicaid program, said in a DHS news release. "We recognized that investing in our state’s primary care physicians through medical homes was a fundamental part of moving the system forward."

Golden said the medical home program also enhances the patient experience and should lead to better patient health. Participating physicians, for example, will offer more same-day appointments and provide 24/7 live voice access for patients, he said.

The state Medicaid program also is initiating a pilot project in 39 Delta counties called the Delta Primary Care Case Management program. The program, created by Act 1453 of 2013, serves as a second option for primary care physicians looking for additional support so they can better serve their patients.

Rather than paying physicians directly as is done in the medical home model, Medicaid will contract with a vendor to provide care coordination for physicians enrolled in the pilot project, DHS said. Medicaid issued a request for proposal for those services Tuesday.

"The pilot project really gives the state an opportunity to see what aspects of both models best support physicians so that they can empower their patients to be healthier and more proactive when it comes to their health care needs," said DHS Director John Selig.