Bookings Institute Webinar Discusses Need to Expand Medical Assistant Roles

Brookings Institute, a prominent Washington, DC tank think, aired a webinar entitled “Transforming Clinical Practices to Promote Population Health and Improve Workforce Retention” on August 11th, 2015. The Webinar was meant to discuss the need to expand the roles of medical assistants in order to increase patient care productivity while alleviating physicians’ already stressful workloads.

In 2012, the United States Department of Labor reported there were roughly 560,800 medical assistants working in the country. Yet, despite this large employment pool, the occupation has been plagued with high turnover rates as a result of low wages, limited patient interaction, and cumbersome administrative duties.

One of the webinar’s guest speakers, Sharon Lucie, BSN and also the vice president of operations at North Shore Physicians Group in Massachusetts, explained how her facility has set to task reshaping medical assistant roles by training them to become patient coaches. Also, all staff members at North Shore Physicians Group are now awarded a $2,500 bonus for education reimbursement purposes after two years of employment.

In an effort to establish a synchronized dialogue between medical assistants working at each of the practice group’s twelve primary care sites, a medical assistant council has been formed. This specialized council meets twice a month and includes reps chosen from each site.

As a result, North Shore Physicians Group’s employment turnover rate has decreased by 15% between 2007 and 2014.

The webinar also featured guest speaker Steven M. Blumberg, the executive director and senior vice president of AtlantiCare Health Solutions. During the webinar, Blumberg also stressed the importance of medical assistants serving as patient coaches to increase patient care productivity. Today, all patients of AtlantiCare’s Special Care Center receive a patient coach, which provides a consistent source of communication and education.

Consequently, medical assistants turned health coaches have much larger impact on their patients’ progress. Blumberg was quoted as saying, “At the end of the day, the patient does not want to let the coach down.”