Who is responsible for what tasks within primary care: Perceived task allocation among primary care providers and interdisciplinary team members

Samuel T. Edwards, Lisa V. Rubenstein, Lisa S. Meredith, Nicole Schmidt Hackbarth, Susan E. Stockdale, Kristina M. Cordasco, Andrew B. Lanto, Philip J. Roos, Elizabeth M. Yano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Unclear roles in interdisciplinary primary care teams can impede optimal team-based care. We assessed perceived task allocation among primary care providers (PCPs) and staff during implementation of a new patient-centered care model in Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care practices. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional survey of PCPs and primary care staff (registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs), and medical assistants/clerks (MAs)) in 23 primary care practices within one VA region. We asked subjects whether PCPs performed each of 14 common primary care tasks alone, or relied upon staff for help. Tasks included gathering preventive service history, disease screening, evaluating patients and making treatment decisions, intervening on lifestyle factors, educating patients about self-care activities and medications, refilling prescriptions, receiving and resolving patient messages, completing forms, tracking diagnostic data, referral tracking, and arranging home health care. We then performed multivariable regression to determine predictors of perceived PCP reliance on staff for each task. Results: 162 PCPs and 257 staff members responded, a 60% response rate. For 12/14 tasks, fewer than 50% of PCPs reported relying on staff for help. For all 14 tasks, over 85% of RNs reported they were relied upon. For 12/14 tasks, over 50% of LPNs reported they were relied on, while for 5/14 tasks a majority of MAs reported being relied upon. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants (NP/PAs) reported relying on staff less than physicians. Conclusions: Early in the implementation of a team-based primary care model, most PCPs perceived they were solely responsible for most clinical tasks. RNs, and LPNs felt they were relied upon for most of the same tasks, while medical assistants/clerks reported being relied on for fewer tasks. Better understanding of optimal inter-professional team task allocation in primary care is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-149
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Allied health personnel
  • Health care teams
  • Health manpower
  • Patient-centered medical home
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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