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December 06, 2018

Team-Based Care | Realizing Our Collective Power

Article by: Rachel Roberts, MD 

“People who try to be superstars alone, who believe that they have the power to create change only if and when they occupy an “official” leadership role, will achieve only Small Potential. But when everyone in a system, no matter their official role or position, shares the work of creating change, there is virtually no limit to what can be achieved,” says Shawn Achor, author of the new book, “The Big Potential”.   Realizing our collective power is one of the reasons UHA is so incredibly proud of its team-based care (click here to see the video).  In this care model, all members of the provider-led team play an integral role.  Providers and a group of medical assistants strategically redistribute work and share responsibilities for better patient care.  This approach is driving population health, enhancing our ability to care for patients in a digital world, and improving professional fulfillment for all team members.

We pride ourselves in taking excellent care of every patient who walks through the door and in preventing future illness with proactive interventions and screenings, but what about the person who doesn’t walk through the door?   The one who only visits the doctor when he or she is extremely ill?  Or the person who has so many responsibilities at home he or she forgets to take care of himself or herself? 

Population health is a way of using data and action to find these people and offer them proper screenings and interventions.  Take for instance colon cancer screening and influenza vaccination.  Colon cancer rates in the U.S. dropped by 30 percent from 2000 to 2010; during those same years, colonoscopy screenings almost tripled among adults ages 50 to 75.   The CDC estimates that the seasonal flu vaccine prevented more than 40,000 flu-associated deaths in the United States during a nine-year period from 2005-2006 through 2013-2014.    As motivating as these statistics are, following every screening recommendation in the time allotted for a health maintenance exam, much less during an acute visit, is extremely challenging, if not impossible, when we rely solely on one person.  Expanding the ownership drastically improves our ability to screen and to save lives.  Team-based care provides structure to offer someone a potentially life-saving screening even when they have come for a quick visit.

With the advent of digital medicine, care can happen any time and any place, but how does a provider manage that level of access?   Thankfully, they do not do it alone.  Working under protocols and direct physician supervision, medical assistants can field emails and phone calls, while the provider can focus on the patient in the office that day.

Not only has team-based care been linked to improved patient outcomes and service, but it can be a means to improve wellbeing by contributing to the growth and personal welfare of all team members.  By extending power to others, we share the total bulk of care.   Medical assistants expand their scope of practice and diversify their daily work, while providers can focus more on their strengths.  Additional face time allows MAs to develop or deepen relationships with patients, and providers gain more time to listen and think deeply about the patient’s specific problems.  Simultaneously, the increased daily interactions among team members create the opportunity to develop culture and comradery.   

We are just beginning to see all the benefits that working together offers!

Be Well,

Rachel Roberts, MD

Primary Care Internal Medicine (Collaborative Primary Care)

Medical Director, UHA Provider Wellness

Medical Director, Los Gatos Collaborative Primary Care

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