As Physician Shortage Looms, Team-Based Care May Help
CHICAGO — The warnings have become all too common — by 2025, many authorities agree, the U.S. is going to face a shortage of physicians.
In fact, between September 2022 and 2034, there are likely to be as many as 124,000 fewer practicing physicians in the U.S., and 48,000 fewer primary care physicians.
However, a recent article from the American Medical Association suggests one way to mitigate the impact of this shortage when it comes to patient care may be a greater reliance on so-called “team-based care.”
In such cases, patients receive care from a physician leader overseeing a multidisciplinary team of primary care and specialty physicians, non-physician clinical staff such as nurses and pharmacists, as well as non-clinical staff.
The AMA defines team-based care as “the consistent use by a physician of the leadership knowledge, skills, and expertise necessary to identify, engage and elicit from each team member the unique set of training, experience, and qualifications needed to help patients achieve their care goals, and to supervise the application of these skills.”
The article, written by AMA senior news writer Andis Robeznieks, focuses on the thoughts and experiences of Dr. Kimberly Herner, chief quality officer for Valley Medical Center, which is part of UW Medicine, the University of Washington health system.
According to Herner, the impending physician shortage is going to force the medical community into “a different way of doing business.”
“It is unfortunate that there likely will be a physician shortage, so we’re going to have to do things differently if we want to help our patients stay healthy and manage their health issues,” she told Robeznieks.
“I’m biased, as I feel that everyone should have a primary care physician, but there’s not enough to go around, so how can we extend their capacity?” Herner added. “Having a team means I don’t have to see everybody every time. I could have them see my team members sometimes.”
Herner goes on to explain the reason Valley Medical Center’s clinic has been successful with team care is because they’ve created a precise set of steps that have been perfected over time.
These steps include, “Patient education and engagement; risk stratification of patients and creating care pathways with well-defined roles for each member of the team.”
The first step is building a relationship with the patient and creating a safe space for learning. Herner explains that educating patients on what their diagnoses mean and how they can routinely check their oxygen saturation, blood pressure and weight, etc. are helpful tools when managing health care.
The next step is getting patients in touch with a specialized physician. In the case of diabetes, Herner explains that “we created a pathway where, if certain conditions exist, we consider referral to an endocrinologist. Then, once these conditions are addressed, we send them back to their regular doctor.”
Finally, data is collected and used to make sure that pathways are completed.
Eden can be reached at [email protected]