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Defining Team Effort Involved in Patient Care from the Primary Care Physician’s Perspective

A better understanding of the attributes of patients who require more effort to manage may improve risk adjustment approaches and lead to more efficient resource allocation, improved patient care and health outcomes, and reduced burnout in primary care clinicians. To identify and characterize high-effort patients from the physician’s perspective. Cohort study. Ninety-nine primary care physicians in an academic primary care network. From a list of 100 randomly selected patients in their panels, PCPs identified patients who required a high level of team-based effort and patients they considered complex. For high-effort patients, PCPs indicated which factors influenced their decision: medical/care coordination, behavioral health, and/or socioeconomic factors. We examined differences in patient characteristics based on PCP-defined effort and complexity. Among 9594 eligible patients, PCPs classified 2277 (23.7 %) as high-effort and 2676 (27.9 %) as complex. Behavioral health issues were the major driver of effort in younger patients, while medical/care coordination issues predominated in older patients. Compared to low-effort patients, high-effort patients were significantly (P < 0.01 for all) more likely to have higher rates of medical (e.g. 23.2 % vs. 6.3 % for diabetes) and behavioral health problems (e.g. 9.8 % vs. 2.9 % for substance use disorder), more frequent primary care visits (10.9 vs. 6.0 visits), and higher acute care utilization rates (25.8 % vs. 7.7 % for emergency department [ED] visits and 15.0 % vs. 3.9 % for hospitalization). Almost one in five (18 %) patients who were considered high-effort were not deemed complex by the same PCPs. Patients defined as high-effort by their primary care physicians, not all of whom were medically complex, appear to have a high burden of psychosocial issues that may not be accounted for in current chronic disease-focused risk adjustment approaches.

Authors: Hwang AS; Atlas SJ; Hong J; Ashburner JM; Zai AH; Grant RW; Hong CS

J Gen Intern Med. 2017 Mar;32(3):269-276. Epub 2016-10-21.

PubMed abstract

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