'Frontline Workers' Critical for Accountable, Team-Based Care

Published Online: March 20, 2014
Katie Sullivan, MA
Team collaboration and coordination will be necessary if health systems are to become more accountable for patient-centered outcomes. In particular, “frontline healthcare workers” have been identified as having the most critical role in engaging with patients. These individuals—who include professionals such as medical assistants, community health workers, and pharmacy technicians—are often the first point of contact for many consumers. Investing in these frontline workers will benefit any future-thinking health organizations, say Kavita Patel, managing director for clinical transformation and delivery, and Jeff Nadel, research assistant, both of Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform.

“The adoption of a care-team model is a strategy that many organizations are using today. Bringing together a broad range of skills and perspectives across an interprofessional care team is critical to accommodating the many physical, emotional, and social needs of patients,” Ms Patel and Mr Nadel say. “The team may include primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, health coaches, and mental health professionals. The composition should depend entirely on each patient's needs.”

Those health systems that invest in a care-team model can expect to increase operational efficiency, improve staff satisfaction, and see financial payoffs.  As well, new care models such as the accountable care organization and patient-centered medical home actually require that members from all levels of the healthcare hierarchy participate—not just physicians.  Frontline workers will be critical in improving the “patient experience.”

Leonie Heyworth, MD, MPH, and Steven R. Simon, MD, MPH, explain in a recent article in The American Journal of Accountable Care:

“New recognition of patient experience has grown as health plans and health systems have begun to link measures of patient satisfaction to provider payment, helping providers and healthcare systems to understand patient perceptions of care delivery and establishing the concept of ‘pay for experience’ in clinical care. At the heart of primary care is the patient-provider relationship, and as ‘pay for experience’ broadens its reach, upholding mechanisms necessary to revitalize patient-provider communication will be necessary to maintain a strong foundation of primary care.”

Around the Web

On the "Front Lines" of Health Reform: Reinventing Team-Based Care [Brookings]

Enhancing Patient Experience in an Era of “Pay for Experience” [AJAC]