Primary care ‘dream teams’ incorporate more non-physicians

care team

It isn’t just doctors who make up a primary care “dream team.”

There’s a shift from primary care physician-led healthcare to care teams that incorporate many non-physicians including dieticians, mental health professionals, clinical educators and social workers, according to a report from PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI).

As U.S. healthcare becomes more consumer-centered and value-based, in order to succeed, “healthcare providers should dramatically broaden their primary care teams, rely less on primary care physicians and design their programs to truly serve consumer desires and needs,” according to the report.

Conclusions in the report were based on a 2015 survey of 1,500 primary care physicians, specialists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists, as well as a survey of 1,750 American consumers in the summer of 2016.

To be cost effective, building a primary care team to serve patients means broadening care beyond just physicians, the report said. A primary care team designed around the needs of complex chronic patients, for example, could potentially result in $1.2 million in savings for every 10,000 patients served, according to HRI’s analysis. Most of the savings come from prevented hospital admissions and visits to the emergency room.

Nurse practitioners will take center stage in primary care, the report said. That matches the needs of patients, as 75 percent of consumers surveyed by HRI said they would be comfortable seeing a nurse practitioner or physician assistant instead of a physician for certain services.

However, entirely new roles are emerging in primary care, the report said. For instance, Oak Street Health, a Chicago-based organization, employs “ninjas” that make sure information is flowing to the right people in the practice in a timely manner.