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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Special Feature

Physician-led health care teams offer high-quality care

Physician-led health care teams offer high-quality care

A Michigan patient-centered medical home project last year saved $155 million, thanks to an increasingly popular approach to care: the physician-led health care team.

Under Michigan's team-based model led by primary care physicians, patients needed fewer hospital admissions, readmissions and emergency department visits. Instead, patients benefited from more preventive services, enhanced chronic disease management and increased care coordination.

More than 3,000 physicians and nearly 1,000 groups are participating in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's patient-centered medical home project, which has saved $310 million over its five years of existence, according to a University of Michigan study published this summer in the Health Services Research Journal.

While the patient-centered medical home is just one form of team-based care, proponents of the health care team say formal arrangements can lead to higher quality care and more affordable costs.

As America's patient population multiplies and the prevalence of chronic conditions escalates, physician-led health care teams offer an effective solution. In these models, each health care professional—from physicians to physician assistants to nurse practitioners to case managers—is able to perform to the height of his or her training. Such teams are able to build on each professional's strengths and perspective to provide the safest, highest quality care.

The teams also ensure patients have access to the care they need. Researchers have estimated that without the aid of other professionals, physicians would need to work 21.7 hours each day to give their patients acute, chronic and preventive care at the recommended levels.

At the same time, patients have indicated in no uncertain terms that while they want physicians and other professionals to work in a coordinated manner, they also want physicians at the head of those teams. A recent AMA survey (AMA login required) found that more than 75 percent of patients think physicians should lead the health care team.

Organized medicine is clearing the way for this kind of care. Laws were adopted last year in Virginia and Texas that recognize the physician's role in leading health care teams and provide for other health professionals to deliver care up to the standards of their training.

The AMA has developed a model bill based on the Virginia law. It is expected to be introduced in several additional states during the coming legislative session.

Learn more about how the AMA is advancing physician-led team-based care.