Non-Clinical Care Guides Offer Positive Approach to Patient Care

November 1, 2013

by Diane Atwood

Diane AtwoodRichard Adair, MD, has been an internist for about 40 years. He is currently employed by Allina Health, a large not-for-profit network of hospitals and clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

As is the case for health care providers across the coun­try, Adair gets to spend, on average, about 20 minutes with each of his patients. He works in a primary care clinic at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, an Allina hos­pital in Minneapolis. A fair number of his patients have chronic diseases and given the time constraints, he often worried that some of them didn’t get the level of attention they needed. The challenge was, he says, “How can we go about giving better quality for our patients without adding more time or more reimburse­ment, because these things are just not going to hap­pen?”

Improving the quality of chronic disease care is an im­portant goal for the entire United States health care system. Several innovative care management models already exist, but Adair wanted to try something dif­ferent. Instead of adding more clinical people, such as nurses, to the primary care delivery team, he wanted to hire laypeople. “Nurses are pretty expensive,” he says. “They have very specific skills and training and we couldn’t do without them, but I was looking for some­body who had a little different skill set than the nurses.”

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