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Delegating tasks to practice staff enhances team-based care

Physicians sharing responsibilities with their teams can lead to better patient care

physicians paperworkPhysician practice owners carry much more responsibility than they did in previous years. In fact, an avalanche of administrative requirements required to succeed, even survive, in healthcare is placing an even greater toll on morale. According to a Medical Economics web poll in December 2013, 41.9% of physicians say that administrative hassles threaten their relationships with patients. And while the challenges have been well documented, the solutions require a new approach to delegation and teamwork, experts say.

Related: 4 ways to manage practice productivity and organize your staff

 “The notion of what it means to lead has shifted. We are moving to a team-based model of care—and it’s not just doctors,” says Andrew Morris-Singer, MD, president and founder of Primary Care Progress, a nonprofit organization that develops leadership practices amongst an interprofessional group of medical professionals. “There are different levels of credentials, expertise and diversity in the doctor’s practice right now. And we never taught physicians how to be on a team and lead a team that’s not all physicians.”

Morris-Singer adds that physicians no longer can have the mentality that they have all of the answers—and this is a good thing. Because of the increased complexity of patient care, especially surrounding chronic disease, it will be important for physicians to build a staff that can manage all areas of a patient’s needs.

The need for appropriate delegation can save a team time. According to a Health Affairs study primary care physicians could save 30 minutes per day by delegating routine functions to staff members. While it’s not a lot of time, it is a start.

“We aren’t able to know the exact answers anymore in terms of care delivery,” he says, adding that different staff members can assist physicians with getting patients to adhere to prescriptions and other guidelines.

“We have to work in a team with a unique, complementary set of skills. This is not substituting the doctor. There’s no one on the team who knows complex diagnoses and can build a therapeutic alliance better than the physician. But that’s not the only thing a patient needs.”

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