Walking The Talk
Teamwork Drives Health Care Effectiveness
Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation.
Cutting costs and improving service in health care are challenging goals that will require a team approach involving individuals, health professionals, community leaders, policymakers, nonprofits and businesses.
Earlier this year, Health Elevations explored how people are working with health professionals to manage their own health through diet, exercise, stress management and other ways. Our summer edition focused on how Coloradans are collaborating to build healthier communities by improving access to parks, safe pathways and healthier foods.
While the Colorado Health Foundation wants to improve the overall health of Coloradans through grants that encourage healthy living (our vision is to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation, after all), there is always going to be a need for health care – no matter how healthy we become.
So along with improving health and incorporating preventive measures to monitor and maintain health, changing the way we actually deliver health care needs to be a key strategy. Effective health care delivery will require a different kind of game plan that leverages and coordinates the talents of a cadre of health professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, mental health therapists, health educators, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists and care managers.
This edition of Health Elevations looks at how health professionals in Colorado are taking a "team-based" approach to deliver primary care in a more efficient, effective, economical and prevention-focused manner. What does that mean? In general, it means that nurse practitioners and physician assistants along with a growing cast of health professionals are playing a more collaborative and team-oriented role than ever before.
Many of Colorado's safety net health systems have already integrated this approach. For example, Salud Family Health Centers performs a simple mental health screening on patients to detect underlying life stressors that may compromise physical health. And High Plains Community Health Center in Lamar uses "patient navigators" to do everything from filling prescriptions to finding specialty shoes for those in need. And University of Colorado health sciences students use computer simulations to learn the team-based approach.
In part, this team-based approach is born of necessity. Quite simply, medical schools nationwide aren't producing enough physicians to meet the growing demand on the health care system. Using a broad range of practitioners also keeps medical costs down since not all health professionals are compensated at the same level as physicians.
While the team approach makes economic and practical sense, most importantly, it works from a clinical standpoint by incorporating the diverse skills of different practitioners. For example, a health educator teaches diabetes self-care techniques to patients, letting physicians handle the more challenging medical tasks. Ultimately, the team-based approach sets the foundation for a more appropriate use of health care resources that could deliver better and more affordable care to more Coloradans.
Whatever team you're on, that's a win for everyone.
Anne Warhover, President and CEO
The Colorado Health Foundation