Historically, primary care has focused on a one-size-fits-all approach by having patients visit their family physician for everything from the flu to getting a physical to diabetes care. While this approach has helped them feel better in the short-term, it doesn’t focus on the prevention of potential future long-term health issues including chronic conditions, which make up 85 of our current healthcare costs. This is where an integrative employee care team can help fill the gaps.
Integrative care teams are made up of a combination of health care clinicians including nurses, health coaches, behavioral health specialists, physical therapists and registered dietitians who work together to provide exceptional patient care. Some of the benefits of working in a collaborative healthcare model include the ability to remove barriers to care, a focus on prevention and wellness, and more time dedicated to helping employees live a healthier life.
Rosa De La Torre, Vice President of Clinical Affairs at Marathon Health, says that she’s seen a huge improvement in employees who work with an integrative care team. “It is incredible to see how much our patients begin to believe in themselves and take control of their health when we can support them,” says De La Torre. “It allows us to provide care the way we intended when we went into healthcare.”
What Does an Integrative Employee Care Team Look Like?
While it can vary at each health center location, employee healthcare teams can consist of any combination of the below roles:
- Physician (MD or DO), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA) – provides primary care services, conducts onsite health risk assessments, provides wellness education, supports individual lifestyle changes, and helps individuals with chronic diseases manage their conditions.
- Nurse (LPN & RN) – supports clinical providers, providing chronic condition coaching, and implementing disease management programming and nursing care plans.
- Medical Assistant (MA) – responsible for a wide variety of tasks involving the clerical and administrative functions of the office and for providing support to the clinical provider.
- Behavioral Health Counselor – possesses comprehensive knowledge about mental health diagnoses and substance use disorders and provides counseling, support and direction to people dealing with these challenges.
- Physical Therapist (PT) – focuses on promoting good movement and resolving musculoskeletal pain and provides occupational health services.
- Registered Dietitian (RD) – responsible for planning, organizing, and providing nutritional education for patients.
- Health Coach – helps patients achieve their personal health goals by conducting onsite health risk assessments, providing wellness education, supporting individual lifestyle changes, and helping individuals with chronic diseases manage their conditions.
- Certified Diabetes Educator – educates patients on the necessary lifestyle changes involved in diabetes diagnosis, including nutrition, medication, physical activity and glucose testing.
- Practice Support Specialist (PSS) or Clinic Host – responsible for greeting patients and initial intake at our front office.
How Employee Care Teams Create a Better Healthcare Experience
Integrative employee care teams work together to identify potential health issues. They then collaborate to create care plans that will provide employees with solutions to better manage their health. For example, if an employee is trying to manage their diabetes better, they can work with both a doctor and diabetes educator on medication management, along with creating an exercise schedule and nutrition plan.
Marathon Health Physician Assistant Riley Summers says working on a collaborative care team helps her to understand her patients better. “If I want to get into the nitty-gritty of how to improve an employee’s blood work, I’m able to utilize multiple resources Marathon Health has such as health coaches and diabetes educators,” Summers says. “It’s just the perfect circle that we can encompass our patients with and give them the best care possible.”
While traditional primary care providers do their best to identify any potential health risks that can lead to chronic conditions, they often have busy waiting rooms and are in a hurry when meeting with patients. In an integrative employee care team setting, clinicians have more time to listen to patients and get to know their challenges and what goals they’d like to achieve for better health. Employee care team members are equipped to engage their patients with techniques like motivational interviewing, appreciative inquiry, and mindfulness to help them work through challenges and put action plans in place to help them achieve their goals.
How a Collaborative Approach Creates Better Employee Health
A lot of health conditions are often caused by other underlying issues. Health coaching is a collaboration between a patient and health coach to develop and work toward behavior changes and goals that result in improved health and wellness. “If I’m working with an employee and their goal is to increase physical activity, but they have foot pain, I can connect them to our providers or physical therapist for an assessment,” says Kara Yanacheck, RN and Health Coach for Marathon Health. “I’m able to touch base with the physical therapist after a few sessions and see how the patient is doing. If it’s recommended that the employee would benefit from additional exercises and stretching, the employee and I can discuss strategies, during our session, to incorporate the additional activity into their routine.”
When Marathon Health patient Quan Bui started experiencing blood sugar surges, he knew that his diabetes wasn’t under control. He used his employer-sponsored healthcare benefits from the Escambia County School District and scheduled an appointment with a health coach and registered nurse. “Esther and Dana helped me come up with a plan to control my diabetes,” Bui says. “They encouraged me to take my prescribed diabetes medications, start exercising and make changes to my diet incorporating healthier foods with fewer carbohydrates, less fat and sugar. Today, my A1C is regulated, and my health has improved. I can do things that I enjoy, like taking walks with my wife, watering the plants in my yard and spending time with my nieces.”