Your primary care practice team may not be as efficient as it could be, particularly for patients with complex, chronic health needs.
A PwC Health Research Institute report that surveyed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists, as well as American consumers, suggested that primary care physicians could optimize their business models by better understanding patients’ social and behavioral health as well as their medical needs. A few strategies can help primary care physicians to build teams that deal with the whole patient that lead to better outcomes and cost savings.
Develop inter-professional teams
The push to diversify primary care teams is propelled by workforce trends: By 2020, the percentage of primary care doctors retiring will outnumber the percentage of new doctors, according to a paper of University of California, San Francisco researchers Thomas Bodenheimer, MD, and Laurie Bauer, RN, MSPH. Based on current demographic trends, primary care will increasingly be provided by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and registered nurses, with physicians focusing on diagnostics and leading teams caring for patients with complex healthcare needs.
Primary care practices can become more efficient by training “dream teams” of various professionals such as physician assistants and nurses to extend physician capacity. “There are a lot of routine needs that don’t necessarily require a physician,” says Edward Salsberg, MPH, research instructor, George Washington School of Nursing. Salsberg says the needs of the chronically ill and elderly will continue to stress the healthcare system as a whole and go beyond what can be provided by physicians.
Further reading: Can patient satisfaction and quality care coexist?
“Bringing in an inter-professional team structure can allow physicians to practice at what they do best,” says Janis M. Orlowski, MD, MACP, chief health care officer, Association of American Medical Colleges (AMMC). Integrating professionals such as nutritionists, occupational therapists and social workers on the team can improve patients’ health and ability to function and can enable more efficient delivery of preventive care that helps keep patients healthy and out of the hospital.