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Working as a Medical Assistant in Our Care Centers

Vera Whole Health and Castlight Health are now apree health

Working as a Medical Assistant in Our Care Centers

Vera Whole Health and Castlight Health are now apree health

author apree health

In March of this year, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) issued a warning that the U.S. would face a physician shortage of up to 86,000 in 12 years.

That’s obviously a big problem, but it’s not the only shortage the healthcare industry is facing. Medical assistants (MAs) are increasingly in short supply, which is why 44% of medical practices surveyed by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) reported MA positions were now the most difficult ones to fill.

While there are many factors behind the current MA shortage, one of the under-reported ones is the very same issue causing many providers to burn out: the constant need to churn through as many patients as possible as quickly as possible.

More time to care

One of the main pillars of apree health’s Advanced Primary Care (APC) model is more time devoted to patient visits. 

We understand that the turnstile treatment of appointments is doing much more harm than good not just to patients, but to medical staff as well. That’s why appointments at our Vera Whole Health care centers are much longer than the industry average.

This extended time doesn’t just occur between patients and providers. MAs, who are often the first to interact with a patient during a health visit, also benefit from a more deliberate pace.

“Our model is the exact opposite of the pay-per-visit model,” says Laura McDonagh, an MA at one of our care centers in Anchorage, Alaska. “I’ve worked pay-per-visit before and I didn’t find it enjoyable.”

Laura has been with apree health for more than six years now, and over that time, she’s seen first-hand how positive extended visits are to patients. “The attitude is different when a patient comes in,” she says. “They’re more comfortable because they’ve actually gotten to know us during our time together rather than us just hustling them through their appointment.” 

Shelby Leathers, an MA at our care center in Everett, Washington, agrees the APC approach is better. “You don’t even remember who you’re seeing with the pay-per-visit model,” she says. “Here you actually know your patients, and I like that.”

“I have friends tell me that when they go to their doctor’s office they feel like they’re just handed a prescription as quickly as possible,” Shelby continues. “Their doctors and staff don’t ask a lot of questions or even have a real conversation. It’s just in and out.”

True collaboration

The strong working relationships between providers and MAs are another aspect Laura and Shelby appreciate about working at apree health.

“After I hand off a patient to a provider, it’s not just on to the next patient. After a visit, the provider takes the time to fill me in on what was discussed, what decisions were made, how the patient is feeling. That way we’re always on the same page so if that patient calls in with a question, I’m able to answer it quickly.”

“The goals at our care clinic are shared,” says Laura. “It’s never just, ‘This is all on you.’ We always make plans on how we’re going to divide and conquer. I’ve been at places where I’ve felt disposable. Not here.”

To Shelby, one of the byproducts of this strong collaboration is a healthier work-life balance. “We don’t have crazy hours or have to work extra time to catch up on things like paperwork since everyone is always pulling their own weight,” she says. “I really appreciate that, especially since I know you don’t really get that elsewhere.”

Benefits across the board

The APC model doesn’t just provide benefits for patients, providers, and MAs. It benefits our own organization as well.

By focusing on making the critical work MAs do more substantial and enjoyable, apree health is able to retain skilled team members. This, in turn, helps our organization avoid the lengthy and costly process of constantly refilling positions.

This cost saving from having longer term MAs helps us lower the total cost of care for our organization. And keeping talented individuals around helps us build strong, tight-knit care centers that are able to work more efficiently.

“We’ve created quite a team here in Anchorage,” says Laura. “We can really count on each other, and it feels more like a family than a staff. We interact outside of work, do parties and things like that, which makes it more of a community than just a place to work.”

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