About the author: Jessica Langley, MS, Executive Director of Education and Provider Markets, National Healthcareer Association
Patients receive care from and interact with an overwhelming number of healthcare professionals — physicians, nurses, medical assistants (MA) and more. Gaps in communication, documentation and treatment are bound to exist. Could care coordination be the answer?
What is Care Coordination?
Care coordination, at its core, is just what the name implies: teams of healthcare professionals working together to ensure their patients’ health needs are being met. Instead of the primary care physician trying to do everything in a 20-minute appointment, a whole team of healthcare providers works together to anticipate the patient’s needs, communicate their findings with each other and make sure no aspect of the patient’s health slips through the cracks.1 The makeup of a care team will differ from practice to practice, but one trend has remained consistent: the integration of the medical assistant (MA) in the team-based care approach.
Setting Up for Success Using T.E.A.M.-Based Care
In team-based care, the MA can play a vital role and enhance an organization’s clinical outcomes and operational efficiency, all while improving staff, provider and patient satisfaction. This level of success requires what National Healthcareer Association (NHA) calls T.E.A.M.-based care: Trusting, Educating, Advocating for and Maximizing on the abilities of the medical assistant.
Trust. Most important is the relationship between the physician and the MA. In most practices, the ratio of MAs to physicians is 1:1 or 2:1. However, the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics is implementing a five assistant to two physician ratio, with MAs being multi-skilled to handle front office management, phlebotomy and X-ray procedures. From the time patients enter the clinic until the time they leave, the assistant is with them.
Educate. With the redesign of care models and the expanding role of MAs, an organization must be willing to invest time and money into creating a standardized set of clinical and administrative competencies.
Because a lack of standardization exists within the medical profession, certification is one of the primary tools for evaluating an individual’s knowledge. From the employer perspective, a nationally recognized credential provides quality assurance to help mitigate risk, improve patient care and outcomes and increase overall patient safety and satisfaction.
Advocate. The team must advocate for the role of the MA so they can be seen as advocating for patients. The overarching goal is to empower continuous MA development by creating a compelling career ladder.
Maximize. The U.S. healthcare system is often scrutinized for providing inefficient and expensive care. The concept of team-based care and care coordination could be the solution, and, when delivered in a patient-centered primary care model, healthcare costs could be decreased by about 60%1.
Big Improvements Require Big Changes
The healthcare industry is undergoing major shifts. The organizations that rise to the top will be the ones who adapt the best with new programs and processes that rethink traditional frameworks. The team-based approach continues to be seen as part of the solution to some of healthcare’s current dilemmas. By empowering MAs, all healthcare professionals can shine, using their skills and knowledge, working with other professionals to create efficiencies for organizations and, most importantly, providing the best care possible to each patient.
1Masterson, Kathleen. “A Team-Based Approach to Primary Care.” University of California San Francisco, 26 Aug. 2014. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2014/08/116856/team-based-approach-primary-care