Study: Team Approach Could Relieve Physician Shortage

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A study released by Health Affairs this month has revealed that physician shortages could be stoppered by utilizing electronic communication and teams to manage patient panels.

Researchers from Columbia University's business school and the University of Pennsylvania created a study to estimate patient panel sizes that were compatible with timely access to care. The simulation showed that grouping patients between two or three physicians — and diverting only 20 percent of patient demand to non-physician professionals — would eliminate "most if not all" of the projected primary care shortage.

Many experts have touted advanced care professionals, nurses and physician assistants as the answer to the projected shortage. This study says that nurse practitioners and physician assistants would be used as part of a team and supervised by a primary care physician.

Linda Green, PhD, professor from Columbia University's business school, said physicians may hesitate to embrace the model, but it is inevitable that "team practice" will become the dominant model in the future.

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