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Rounds Preview: Developing True Team Medicine

Jim Molpus, for HealthLeaders Media, May 29, 2012

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Editor's note: This piece is an excerpt from a fuller case study that is part of an upcoming Rounds event, Building ACO Foundations: Lessons From Kaiser Permanente's Integrated Delivery Model. To see the full case study, which includes additional lessons and more information, visit www.healthleadersmedia.com/rounds/.

No hospital or medical group would dare admit they do not practice team medicine, at least conceptually. But true team medicine is about more than an aspiration—it's an intentional structure built, led, and enabled to deliver care by a diverse, multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counselors, and dozens of other professionals. Oakland, Calif.–based Kaiser Permanente, even with its massive scale of 8.9 million health plan members, more than 16,000 physicians, and 170,000 employees, is built around the team medicine concept.

To be sure, there are benefits to Kaiser Permanente's integrated structure, which allows aligned incentives between the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and hospitals and the Permanente Medical Group physicians. Still, Kaiser Permanente leaders say the key to creating team medicine is less about alignment around reimbursement and more about a commitment to a different way of practicing healthcare, not just medical care.

Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, an internist and associate executive director of quality for the Permanente Federation, says team medicine requires thinking about the physician's role in a new way.

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