Care teams can boost access, patient education
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.