Team-based care is changing the future of work for FQHCs

Burnout is everywhere in healthcare — but have you considered how a team-based care model can mitigate it? It’s not only by sharing the work, but also by not feeling alone when confronting the big issues facing vulnerable communities.

Working at an FQHC can be stressful, overwhelming, and even demoralizing at times, but the work can also be incredibly fulfilling. It’s the reason so many committed community members come to work — and they want to be doing more to be of use to your center.

FQHCs are part of the puzzle to address poverty and engage in this work every day. But confronted with these big challenges, many staff members feel helpless in this mission. Some are unsure how their roles contribute to the overall mission and they realize, over and over again, how hard it is to support every incoming patient, every community member, day in and day out.

The importance of a team-based care model cannot be stressed enough, given its ability to increase staff satisfaction, reduce burnout, and improve the patient experience which, in turn, improves patient trust. The team-based way of working benefits everyone administrative staff, clinical providers, patients, and community members — and is setting a new standard for the future of primary care. Learn more about adopting this model below.

Adopting team-based care to improve quality outcomes

Team-based care isn’t new, but it’s rising in popularity among primary care providers and proving to be an important factor in value-based care models. While most FQHCs have prioritized whole-person health for decades, many are starting to consider more efficient ways of delivering high quality care to patients and driving better health outcomes.

With limited staff and resources, it’s easy to put more responsibilities on clinical providers, social workers, and others who are highly trained to work with patients on clinical issues. But this needs to change, says Lora Council, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Yuvo Health. Clinical staff can be freed up to focus on clinical work when administrative responsibilities and data gathering, among other tasks, can (and should) be taken over by other people in the office, such as medical assistants or front desk staff or by technology solutions such as patient self-scheduling or text message based screenings.

In a team-based care model, every person surrounding the patient is considered a valuable member of the “team.” This includes front desk staff, assistant nurses, social workers, the pharmacy, the dentist, the billing department, and the administration, says Dr. Council. Rather than hiring more clinical staff or more administrative workers, FQHCs should assess their existing teams and how they can more efficiently accomplish tasks.

Some ways to adopt this model:

  • Identify a clear, common goal within your center, such as making the patient experience as seamless as possible.
  • Find out why your staff members have chosen to work at your center – and ask what roles and responsibilities they’d be interested in taking on.
  • Build your own workforce. Hire students out of high school or college and provide job training.
  • Train and promote from within, understanding that existing staff are willing to learn and grow with you and your mission.
  • Give each staff member more agency to contribute in more meaningful ways.
  • Improve the system of communication between all staff members, including clinical providers and administrative staff.
  • Recognize the value of each staff member, as they all play a vital role in your center.
  • Understand that mistakes will happen as your staff members shift to this new way of working.

While you can’t adopt this new model overnight, as it requires shared trust and understanding, you can take actionable steps to eliminate silos and create a more collaborative team environment. And over time, you’ll need to change your systems and processes.

What does this look like in practice? One example includes having medical assistants, nurses, and others fill out forms before handing them to physicians. Another includes giving non-clinical more information and more responsibility that doesn’t require a license, so they can refer patients to local food pantries, remind patients of Medicaid redetermination, offer them diapers if they’re expecting, and talk them through difficult-to-understand paperwork. Rather than “dumping” more tasks on the component of the workforce with the least amount of training, these office changes need to be implemented in an incremental, supportive way that recognizes the amount of local knowledge and good will all staff bring to the health center.

This new team-based care model will change the patient experience — and lead to better quality care, delivery, and outcomes — by unlocking every staff member’s ability to be a dedicated contributor.

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