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Primary Care Teams: Are We There Yet? Implications for Workforce Planning

Grover, Atul MD, PhD; Niecko-Najjum, Lidia M. JD, RN

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000028

Recent studies suggest that team-based primary care models could contribute to eliminating the predicted physician shortages. In this article, the authors explore existing team-based clinical care delivery models, comparing specialist and primary care teams, that include patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations. Next, the authors describe the barriers to adopting these models on a large scale, particularly the regulatory, financial, and cultural factors as well as scope of practice considerations for nonphysician providers. The authors’ aim is not to evaluate the merits of team-based primary care models but, rather, to ascertain whether such models should be at the center of current physician workforce planning policies. The authors argue that although emerging evidence indicates that primary care teams can improve patient outcomes, few data exist to suggest that these models will drastically reduce the need for additional physicians or other providers. Thus, the authors conclude that additional research is needed to evaluate the ability of such models to alleviate provider deficits. And, while policy makers should work toward their ideal health care system, they also must expand the physician workforce to meet the growing demand for health care services in the existing one.

Dr. Grover is chief public policy officer, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Ms. Niecko-Najjum is senior research and policy analyst, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Funding/Support: None.

Other disclosures: None.

Ethical approval: Not applicable.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not reflect the views of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Correspondence should be addressed to Ms. Niecko-Najjum, Association of American Medical Colleges, 2450 N St., NW, Washington, DC 20037; telephone: (202) 741-0999; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges