HealthDay News — Practice facilitators and care managers can play important roles in improving delivery of primary care, a recent report suggests.

Erin Fries Taylor, PhD, from Mathematica Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and colleagues defined the roles of practice facilitators and care managers in redesigning primary care and improving care delivery.

“To transform the way they deliver care, practices will require various supports and will need to use teams more effectively,” the researchers reported in Annals of Family Medicine.

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Despite this growing need the potential of practice facilitators and care managers is currently unrealized in many primary care settings, “particularly small- and medium-sized practices, despite having shown promise in improving care,” the researchers added.

Practice facilitators fill the role of quality improvement coach, the researchers explained. They work with members of the primary care team to assist practices with coordinating quality improvement activities. This requires applying a systems-level approach to improving quality, safety, and implementation of evidence-based practices.

Facilitators function in the following ways:

  • Help organize, prioritize and sequence quality improvement initiatives to ensure practice’s achieve medical home status
  • Train practice staff to understand and use data to achieve quality improvement goals
  • Create and maintain quality improvement infrastructure within a practice
  • Foster a culture of change that is receptive to quality improvement initiatives

The role of care managers, on the other hand, are defined as practice-based staff that directly interact with patients and communicate across the care team to coordinate care needs, monitor care plans, educate patients about self-management and connect patients with supportive community and social services.

“These complementary roles aim to help primary care practices deliver coordinated, accessible, comprehensive, and patient-centered care,” the researchers wrote.

Although it’s generally accepted that support players are needed to improve primary care health in the United States, the researchers pointed out that funding extra positions can be challenging.

A number of federally funded programs currently exist, however, including: Area Health Education Centers or Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health [HITECH] Regional Extension Centers, state government and/or Medicaid program waivers, and philanthropic organizations, such as the Commonwealth Fund’s Safety Net Medical Home Initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Improving Performance in Practice program.

“These funding sources position facilitators as a shared community resource whose services are available to many practices,” the researchers wrote.