A Better Way to Manage Primary Care

by Debbie Simon, UnityPoint Health

A revolution is taking place in healthcare today. Some of it is driven by the Accountable Care Act, the repercussions of which may not be fully understood for months or even years to come. But there is also a recognition among healthcare providers that, regardless of the law, we need to change the way we do things—not just on a financial level, but in the way care is delivered. This in turn has sparked creative new approaches that have the potential to transform healthcare in our community.

At UnityPoint Clinic (formerly Methodist Medical Group), we are rolling out “Team Care” in our primary care clinics. Introduced by Dr. Keith Knepp, vice president of systems integration at UnityPoint Health – Methodist, this exciting new approach is designed to make the best use of clinic personnel, improve care coordination, and give patients the best experience possible.

Under Team Care, each staff member in our primary care clinics is empowered to work at the “top of their license.” For example, medical office assistants are trained to perform functions that do not require a provider, such as gathering patient data and entering it in the electronic medical record. This frees the doctor, physician assistant or advanced practice nurse to devote his or her full attention to the patient—not a computer screen. The assistant stays in the room to scribe the visit into the medical record, taking notes and documenting the care plan prescribed by the provider, such as lab or imaging tests, medications, referrals to specialists and lifestyle changes. In some cases, a nurse or care navigator follows up with education and support to help patients understand and comply with the care plan for better results.

Studies have shown that this team-based approach can improve quality of care. A focused provider is able to increase his or her diagnostic accuracy, and is better able to plan treatment. It also improves both patient and staff satisfaction. Patients like having more meaningful interaction with their provider, and they appreciate a streamlined process in which they don’t feel like they are being asked the same questions multiple times. And because the entire team works more efficiently, the new approach is improving access to same-day or next-day appointments.

Clinic employees also enjoy the new approach and take pride in being part of an integrated care team that recognizes the value of every team member. As for providers, Team Care lets them do what they do best—take care of patients. Dr. Stephanie Lindstrom, a family practitioner at UnityPoint Clinic in Metamora, says, “What I really enjoy about Team Care is that I’m doing what I went to medical school to do. And my patients love the new era of care that we’re providing.”

Above all, Team Care is about bringing together all of the resources in each primary care office to focus on the patient and his or her individual needs. By surrounding you with care, we can keep you healthier, while providing better service in the most cost-effective manner possible. iBi

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