The United States can solve the primary care physician shortage by fully implementing physician-led patient-centered medical homes.
Texas has a fast-growing population and needs to work toward a 21st century health care workforce. More than ever, caring for larger panels of patients – particularly in primary care medical homes – will involve the skills of many different practitioners. Central to this concept is that these physician-led teams will utilize a number of health care professionals, each bringing important skill sets and training to patient care. Physicians will continue to provide patient care services, but they also will be called upon to manage the team’s care for larger populations, out of necessity and for essential coordination.
Team care will require cooperation and collaboration among all professionals, with a focus on quality, measureable outcomes, and efficient utilization of resources. It will be essential that the patient receive the right care, at the right time, by the right professional, in the right venue.
The physician is the highest-trained team member. It therefore falls to the physician – as both provider of care and manager of services delivered by others on the team – to supervise, implement science-driven and objective treatment protocols, coordinate the services of other professionals as well as medical specialists, and ultimately remain accountable for each patient’s care.
Integrating the talents of a diverse medical team under physician leadership will be one of the key challenges in the coming decade. Without physician direction, supervision, and management (or if the system evolves to accommodate teams led by practitioners with lesser training), medical care will trend toward even more fractured care, higher-than-necessary utilization, and creeping inefficiencies. This will lead to even higher costs, duplications of services, and lower-quality patient care. These inefficiencies in turn will hamper efforts to improve access to care.