The Shifting Strategy of Healthcare Teams

As a primary care provider, I have patients who come in and say “I want you to be the quarterback of my care.” I understand their sentiment – in a fractured and complicated healthcare landscape they want someone who calls the plays and sees what is happening on the field. In talking to physicians, many still see themselves in this role – no healthcare play starts without a physician leading the team.

As the complexity of patients’ needs and the complexity of services we provide continue to grow, this model will need to shift to support value based care. As we move forward, I propose we shift our thinking from football to basketball. The physician is often the point guard beginning plays as she surveys the landscape of the defense. The physician is joined by a team of nurses, medical assistants, health coaches, community health workers, pharmacists, behavioral health professionals who each take on different roles – shooting guard, center, etc – and move in and out of the game as needed. At any time, there can be a shift in the defense, a break away for example, where the community health worker completes the play without the involvement of the physician. Most importantly, the patient is on the team and the patient never leaves the game.

Coaching then also shifts. The basketball coach is a sophisticated population health team that uses statistical analysis to recommend plays to the team. However, just like basketball, there is an art and finesse to reading the situation.

High functioning health care teams of the future will be built on the trust that any member of the team can complete the play. There will be tasks led by the physician and others led by other team members and most led by the patient.

Jennifer Abraczinskas, MD

Jennifer Abraczinskas, MD

Family Medicine Physician
Cooper University Health Care
Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

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