Make a great LEAP forward with new Improving Primary Care Team Guide

By Brian Austin, Associate Director of the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation at Group Health Research Institute.

Better care. Healthier patients. Happier staff. Have you ever noticed a primary care practice where clinicians and staff seem to share the work as a team and feel more joy in the practice of medicine? Did you wonder what their secret was? We did too.

With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation studied the strategies and tactics that 31 practices across the country used to markedly improve care, efficiency, and job satisfaction. How did they do it? By transforming to a team-based approach that enables the patient-centered medical home model of care. After harvesting the great ideas and workplace models of these high-performing practices, we assembled a new resource for primary care professionals: The Improving Primary Care Team Guide.

The Guide was developed as part of RWJF’s project, “The Primary Care Team: Learning from Effective Ambulatory Practices,” or LEAP. The exemplary practices we studied represent a variety of settings, practice configurations, sizes, and locations. They include private practices, large health systems, and community health centers. They represent 20 states, including settings as varied as inner-city New York, rural Colorado, and Oakland, Calif.

Four practices from the Pacific Northwest also contributed to the Primary Care Team Guide: Family Care Network (Bellingham, Wash.), Old Town Clinic (Portland, Ore.), Providence St. Peter Family Medicine, (Olympia, Wash.), and Eastern Oregon Medical Associates (Baker City, Ore.).

What the guide can do for your practice

Better outcomes are now within reach. We developed the Team Guide with the aim of providing workplace models that can be replicated. This free online resource can help your practice navigate through challenges both old and new. It:

  • Provides actionable and measurable hands-on tools and resources.
  • Is appropriate for practices at any point along the journey to team-based care.
  • Includes modules that enable practices to easily pinpoint relevant topics and areas of interest.

Get started. Build the team. Do the work. These are the three entry points in the guide for you to take your practice to new levels of efficiency and performance.

Building teamwork is key. In our LEAP site visits, we noticed a striking finding: the extensive involvement of all staff—especially medical assistants and trained lay persons—in key patient care roles such as health coaching, care coordination, or telephone follow-up. The Team Guide can help you learn how to start building care teams that make the most of the diverse skills and expertise your clinicians and staff have to offer. You will also discover how to change workflows and build care teams so your practice can provide higher quality care that is more patient-centered, effective, and efficient.

We invite you to review and share the Improving Primary Care Team Guide, and tell us via this blog: In your experience, what has enabled more traditional provider-centric practices TO make the transition to team-based care?

RWJF’s LEAP project is directed by Ed Wagner, MD, MPH, and Margaret Flinter, PhD, APRN. For more information, contact the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Wash.

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