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Rodriguez HP, Giannitrapani KF, Stockdale S, Hamilton AB, Yano EM, Rubenstein LV. Teamlet structure and early experiences of medical home implementation for veterans. Journal of general internal medicine. 2014 Jul 1; 29 Suppl 2:S623-31.
BACKGROUND: High functioning interdisciplinary primary care teams are a critical component of the patient-centered medical home. In 2010, the Veterans Administration (VA) implemented a medical home model termed the Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT), with reorganization of staff into small teams ("teamlets") as a core feature. OBJECTIVE: To examine the early experiences of primary care personnel as they assumed new roles through reorganization into teamlets. DESIGN: Convergent mixed methods study design involving semi-structured interviews and a survey; data were collected in 2011 and 2012. PARTICIPANTS: We interviewed 41 frontline teamlet members (i.e., primary care physicians and staff) from three practices that were part of a PACT demonstration laboratory and examined clinician and staff survey data from 22 practices. MAIN MEASURES: Semi-structured interview guide and clinician and staff survey questions covering the following domains: teamlet formation and structure, within-teamlet communication, cross-coverage, role changes, teamlet training, impact on Veterans, and leadership facilitation and support. KEY RESULTS: Respondents had limited input into teamlet structure and indicated limited training on the PACT initiative. Guidelines delineating each teamlet member's roles and responsibilities were emphasized as important needs. Chronic understaffing also contributed to implementation challenges and territorial attitudes surfaced when cross-coverage was not clear. In addition, several core features of VA's medical home transformation were not fully implemented by teamlet members. Most also reported limited guidance and feedback from leadership. Despite these challenges, teamlet-based care was perceived to have a positive impact on Veterans' experiences of primary care and also resulted in improved communication among staff. CONCLUSIONS: The PACT teamlet model holds much promise for improving primary care at the VA. However, more comprehensive training, improving the stability of teamlets, developing clear cross-coverage policies, and better defined teamlet member responsibilities are important areas in need of attention by VA leadership.