AOTA Engaged in Ongoing Effort to Promote Role of OT in Primary Care


AOTA has been engaged in an effort for more than a year to explore new opportunities for occupational therapy practitioners in primary care. Due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as well as trends that existed before and apart from that law, the health care delivery system is undergoing significant changes. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s “Triple Aim” aptly describes the goals that these changes are attempting to achieve: reducing costs, improving population health, and improving the patient experience. Reforming the delivery of primary care is seen as necessary to achieving the goals of the Triple Aim, and perhaps the most significant component of primary care reform is the development and utilization of interprofessional primary care teams. AOTA believes that occupational therapy practitioners can make a valuable contribution to these teams and has been engaging leaders of the profession, as well as outside stakeholders, to promote the value of occupational therapy and identify the many ways its practitioners can help in achieving the Triple Aim. Below, AOTA members may access resources developed related to AOTA’s primary care initiatives.

To further its understanding of primary care as a component of the changing health care delivery system, AOTA commissioned the preparation of an environmental scan of current conditions by two expert consultants. The resulting report, entitled Review of New Models of Primary Care Delivery (members only), is a review of the trends and challenges driving changes in primary care delivery, new models of primary care delivery, and a summary of various experts’ opinions regarding these developments and the potential for occupational therapy practitioners to contribute to this evolution.

Building on the knowledge acquired from the environmental scan, AOTA convened a forum of thought leaders, including occupational therapy educators and practitioners, as well as a variety of representatives from outside the profession. The forum allowed this diverse group to dialogue about evolving primary care delivery models and to explore potential contributions from and roles for occupational therapy. You may read more about the forum here. In addition, AOTA prepared a summary document capturing highlights from the forum, which AOTA members may review here (members only).

Most recently, AOTA developed action items to guide its ongoing work related to occupational therapy and evolving primary care models. As is evident from these action items, this initiative is multifaceted and involves the collaboration of AOTA staff and volunteer leaders as well as occupational therapy practitioners and educators around the country. In addition, it will require ongoing engagement with a variety of stakeholders outside the profession. It is important to understand that these action items will inevitably require adaptation to changing circumstances, and are not representative of the totality of work that AOTA envisions will be necessary to complete the goals of its primary care initiatives. Instead, the action items are currently identified goals related to AOTA’s promotion of an enhanced role for occupational therapy practitioners on interprofessional primary care teams, and the distinct value they can provide. Stay tuned as AOTA continues this exciting work.