Strong Team-Based Care Necessary to Meet Looming Access Demands

With millions more Pennsylvanians gaining health insurance as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes into effect, physicians want to be sure that patient care is team-based and physician-led.

To members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), that’s one reason why it’s important to continue to strengthen health care teams, which will in turn increase the effectiveness of primary care as well as specialty services.

“We know that this team approach to patient care, ultimately led by physicians, delivers the highest quality and safest care possible,” said Bruce MacLeod, MD, president of PAMED.

To support the push for strong team based care, as well as other legislative measures, physicians gathered at the state Capitol on Dec. 10, 2013, to participate in Physician Leadership Day.

Following a media event at the Capitol with Gov. Corbett, physicians and physicians-in-training visited with their state legislators to advocate for support of measures to help keep Pennsylvania’s health care teams strong, physician-led, and patient-centered.

Two bills introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly propose a Patient-Centered Medical Home Advisory Council. Senate Bill 1083 and House Bill 1655, introduced by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga) respectively, provide unique opportunities for Pennsylvania to build a stronger framework for our health care teams, which will in turn help nurture the development of patient-centered care.

Another recent example of PAMED’s advocacy on team based care is a compromise reached with the Physician Assistants regarding countersignature requirements. Recognizing the critical value of the role of advanced practice providers on the health care team, during the last legislative session PAMED worked with the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants to reach an agreement on a bill that, as originally written, would have completely eliminated the countersignature requirement.

Because of that agreement, PAMED now supports two bills introduced this session, HB 1348 and HB 1351, that include the agreed upon language. That language provides for supervising physicians to countersign 100 percent of the patient records of newly graduated PAs or those PAs who change specialty during the first 12 months of practice, and 100 percent of the patient records of those PAs who change practices within the same specialty for six months.

“These are just a few examples of how a physician-led team can pull different elements of the health care team together to help the patient,” said Dr. MacLeod. “In any team, you want the most knowledgeable and well trained to lead the team. In health care, that is the physician,” he added.

Patients agree. In a recent poll of Pennsylvanians (2011 Patient Poll conducted by PAMED), more than 90 percent of patients said that they value their relationship with their doctor above their relationships with any other health care providers they routinely see.

“Health care is team endeavor that works when all parts are working synergistically,” said Dr. MacLeod. “With the implementation of the ACA, all members of the health care team, led by physicians, are going to have to work together to be able to manage the needs of the patient.”

Team-based care and collaboration among health care providers is also a part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan released earlier this fall.