Practices are increasingly looking for ways to provide better patient care with the staff they have. Enhancing the role of medical assistants (MAs) can help. Here are seven strategies to consider:
1. Organize MAs into provider teams. Have them serve on teams that are responsible for a dedicated panel of patients.
2. Engage MAs in population management. This includes screening for smoking status, administering immunizations, drawing blood, and performing monofilament diabetic foot exams.
3. Empower MAs to own key quality measures. Have them document the services they provide and hold them responsible for tracking such things as the percentage of patients queried about tobacco use or the percentage of patients with diabetes who have had an A1C test.
4. Turn MAs into health coaches. Once trained on chronic diseases, they can educate patients on how to better manage their conditions through regular follow-up care, routine testing for complications, and better self-care (diet, exercise, etc.). They can also help patients set self-management goals and take on other duties of health coaching.
5. Develop MAs as outreach workers. They can call patients who miss appointments, are overdue for services, or need follow-up based on risk assessment.
6. Use MAs to help manage high-risk patients. MAs can assist nurses in caring for the highest-risk patients in the practice. They can make outreach calls, track patients who have been hospitalized or visited the emergency department, and take on preauthorization and other insurance-related work, which frees the nurse to do more intensive care management.
7. Cross-train MAs. MAs can be cross-trained to cover for one another during breaks and absences, to work in both the front and back offices, or to assist with more advanced patient care roles.
Read the full FPM article: “Envisioning New Roles for Medical Assistants: Strategies From Patient-Centered Medical Homes.”
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