Care teams can boost ac­cess, pa­tient ed­u­ca­tion

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT - By Dawn Mor­ton-Rias

One of the most re­ward­ing parts of my job as a clin­i­cal physi­cian as­sis­tant has been talk­ing with pa­tients about their health­care needs and con­cerns. But that type of one-toone pa­tient en­gage­ment and ed­u­ca­tion is get­ting harder to do these days.

Yet we need to find a way make it hap­pen. The Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Physi­cian As­sis­tants re­cently con­ducted a sur­vey of con­sumers and found that more than 20% of pa­tients say they have been treated, but not ed­u­cated about their health­care. That rate could in­crease con­sid­er­ably as new pop­u­la­tions of in­sured pa­tients, many with com­plex ill­nesses, en­ter the health­care sys­tem un­der the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

The sur­vey also showed that ac­cess to health­care now trumps ev­ery other na­tional con­cern, in­clud­ing the econ­omy. Pa­tients are ready for a re­formed health­care sys­tem that makes qual­ity health­care ac­ces­si­ble for all.

That’s why the emerg­ing care-team con­cept, con­sist­ing of physi­cians, PAs, nurses and other prac­ti­tion­ers, will be so im­por­tant. But it’s go­ing to be up to all of us in the in­dus­try to en­sure this model ex­pands and is ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented.

There are many great ex­am­ples of how ef­fec­tive such teams can be: PAs and other prac­ti­tion­ers on care teams are mak­ing house calls on post-sur­gi­cal pa­tients to help re­duce read­mis­sions; work­ing with re­gional Medi­care plans and de­vel­op­ing well­ness pro­grams for se­niors; and mak­ing tremen­dous strides in bring­ing qual­ity health­care to the home­less, med­i­cally un­der­served and men­tally ill in ur­ban ar­eas. Such pro­grams go far be­yond sim­ply “feel-good” medicine—they bring health ser­vices to the people, en­gage and ed­u­cate.

Yet there is push­back. En­trenched prac­tices are hard to break. Ter­ri­to­rial is­sues re­main among many providers. In some ar­eas, pol­i­tics are hurt­ing ef­forts to ex­pand the team-care con­cept. We can’t let that hap­pen. It’s time for all of us in the in­dus­try to look at what’s work­ing and pledge to ex­pand the health­careteam con­cept to en­sure bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion—and health—for all Amer­i­cans.

Dawn Mor­tonRias is pres­i­dent and CEO of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Physi­cian As­sis­tants.

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