AOTA Forum on Interprofessional Team-Based Care: Identifying New Roles for OT in Primary Care


Ted McKenna

AOTA brought together more than 30 experts representing a wide range of health care professions and organizations from June 10 to 11 in Arlington, Virginia, to discuss how occupational therapy can play a role within evolving primary care delivery models, some of which have been created as a result of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Through small group workshops, participants at the AOTA Forum on Interprofessional Team-Based Care—including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health care executives, government agency representatives, and occupational therapy clinicians and academicians—identified a number of key factors driving development of primary care teams, and the barriers occupational therapy faces in playing a key role in interprofessional, coordinated, patient-centered primary care.

Among the factors shaping health care delivery of the future: an aging population; the rapid rise in chronic conditions such as diabetes; the use of technology for delivering services through telehealth, and for patients to gain greater health literacy and do self-management of care; competition among health professions for space on primary care teams; and a growing demand for research related to the efficacy of different providers on interprofessional teams.

Among the identified barriers to occupational therapy maximizing its role on primary care teams: the need for academic training that prepares occupational therapy practitioners for a potentially more generalist as opposed to specialist role; the need for research that demonstrates outcomes supporting the value of occupational therapy in primary care; the existence of complex, changing regulatory and reimbursement systems; and the difficulties in promoting the value of occupational therapy to physicians and other stakeholders that are leading and developing primary care teams, as well as to consumers.

As one health care executive noted, “You have to come up with a valid reason for why you should be in the room instead of someone else. At the end of the day, people respond to data. You need to show them a rational reason for why you should be on the team.”

A presentation to the forum’s participants about a family medicine clinic at the University of Southern California¬≠ that places occupational therapy students and professionals on primary care teams showcased the benefits that occupational therapy can provide when working with other professionals to provide primary care. Participants agreed that developing and promoting other such examples is essential to occupational therapy developing a widely accepted role on primary care teams.

Additional conclusions by forum participants as well as further details on recommended action steps for AOTA will be presented in detail in a follow-up report.

“We see this as a step in an ongoing process as to how occupational therapy can best contribute to our consumers,” AOTA Executive Director Fred Somers noted. “One of our central goals with this forum was to utilize a diverse group of thought leaders, and we hope this is the start of an ongoing collaboration among all the professions here.”

The Following Organizations Participated in the Forum

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
  • AmeriHealth Caritas
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  • American Organization of Nurse Executives
  • Association of Neurosurgical Physician Assistants
  • Boston University, Department of Health Sciences
  • Care Continuum Alliance
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Genesis Rehab Services
  • Harris County Hospital District
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative
  • Quinnipiac University, Occupational Therapy Program
  • St. Catherine University, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions
  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • University of Michigan Institute of Gerontology
  • University of Southern California, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine

To see the agenda for the Forum, click here.

Ted McKenna is the Editor of OT Practice.