A typology of primary care workforce innovations in the United States since 2000

Med Care. 2014 Feb;52(2):101-11. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000043.


Purpose: Innovative workforce models are being developed and implemented to meet the changing demands of primary care. A literature review was conducted to construct a typology of workforce models used by primary care practices.

Methods: Ovid Medline, CINAHL, and PsycInfo were used to identify published descriptions of the primary care workforce that deviated from what would be expected in the typical practice in the year 2000. Expert consultants identified additional articles that would not show up in a regular computerized search. Full texts of relevant articles were read and matrices for sorting articles were developed. Each article was reviewed and assigned to one of 18 cells in the matrices. Articles within each cell were then read again to identify patterns and develop an understanding of the full spectrum of workforce innovation within each category.

Results: This synthesis led to the development of a typology of workforce innovations represented in the literature. Many workforce innovations added personnel to existing practices, whereas others sought to retrain existing personnel or even develop roles outside the traditional practice. Most of these sought to minimize the impact on the existing practice roles and functions, particularly that of physicians. The synthesis also identified recent innovations which attempted to fundamentally transform the existing practice, with transformation being defined as a change in practice members' governing variables or values in regard to their workforce role.

Conclusions: Most conceptualizations of the primary care workforce described in the literature do not reflect the level of innovation needed to meet the needs of the burgeoning numbers of patients with complex health issues, the necessity for roles and identities of physicians to change, and the call for fundamentally redesigned practices. However, we identified 5 key workforce innovation concepts that emerged from the literature: team care, population focus, additional resource support, creating workforce connections, and role change.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational
  • Organizational Innovation*
  • Primary Health Care* / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care* / trends
  • United States
  • Workforce