Physician-Led, Team-Based Care Preserves Patient Safety, Avoids Fragmented Care

Pennsylvania, like the rest of the country, faces growing workforce challenges within its health care system. Forecasts show that those challenges will only get worse as demand for primary care services increases. This raises questions about how care is delivered and what changes can be made to alleviate health care access issues.

New health care delivery systems emphasize coordination and integration among health care providers, as outlined in a recent Legislative Consult by the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED). This team-based care approach is designed around patient needs, with each member of the multi-disciplinary team performing to the full extent of his or her specific training and skills.

All members of the health care team are valuable. However, in physician-led, team-based care, the roles of team members are not interchangeable and there is a need for physician leadership. With 12,000 to 16,000 mandated hours of supervised, direct patient care, a physician’s education specifically trains them to function as the health care professional who is primarily responsible for the care of his or her patient and the leader of the health care team.

The alternative to physician-led, team-based care is a model in which patient care is fragmented and provider autonomy results in isolation. Given the complexity of modern health care, this approach is not only difficult, but could put patient safety at risk.

To meet the surge in demand for primary care services, PAMED is advocating for policies, programs, and legislation that promote patient-centered, physician-led health care teams, such as bills (House Bill 1655 and Senate Bill 1083) that would establish a patient-centered medical home advisory council.

We believe that increased opportunities for medical student loan forgiveness, more primary care residency slots, integration of telemedicine, and expansion of the patient-centered medical home model of care are effective strategies to meet Pennsylvania’s growing health care needs.