Friday, August 19, 2011

Team-driven care

Ambulatory Practice of the Future now accepting new patients

J. Benjamin Crocker, MD, assistant medical director of
the APF at Mass General

After a successful first year of providing MGH employees and their dependents with team-based primary care, the Ambulatory Practice of the Future (APF) is growing – and accepting new patients. J. Benjamin Crocker, MD, assistant medical director of the APF, talks about practicing at the APF and why patients are such important members of the APF team.


Q: Tell us about yourself. Where did you receive your medical training? How long have you practiced at the MGH?

A:I’ve been a staff primary care physician at the MGH since 2001. After attending UMass Medical School, I completed my residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Boston Medical Center. Until I joined APF in June 2010, I was practicing with Internal Medicine Associates at the MGH.

Why did you choose primary care as your specialty?

I think it has everything to do with being able to meet people just where they are over the course of their adult lives – be they young, early in their career, parents, seniors – and connecting with them around sickness and health in deeply personal and meaningful ways. It’s a precious privilege and honor to stand with patients in some of their happiest and darkest moments of health and life.

What was it about the APF that made you want to be part of the team?

I have been passionate about team-driven care for a number of years, and at a time when our field is struggling to survive, I saw the APF as a unique opportunity to be a part of the radical change necessary to redesign the primary care environment. This team is proud to work together and cares for each member’s ongoing growth and development.

How does the care team model at the APF differ from other primary care settings?

A:  At APF patients are part of a team dedicated to their care. They help to create and drive the care plan, with personal wellness goals being an important part of that plan. The team members work very closely with each other to know and understand each patient and how each team member contributes to providing the highest quality of care.

APF patients are encouraged to be active participants in their care. Why is this important?

  Active participation means sharing responsibility for health and wellness management. Patients remain a relatively underappreciated resource to drive better health outcomes. Yet, if given the chance, they are often the most enthusiastic participants in their health care. When patients are more engaged in their own care, we believe they will make better decisions for themselves. Better decisions, we believe, will lead to better outcomes.

Patient visits to the APF are scheduled to allow the physician more time with each patient. What are the benefits of this extra time?

  For too long primary care providers have been struggling with the already disproven claim that we can get everything done in a 15 to 30 minute visit. We know that we are only fooling ourselves – our patients have known this for much much longer – and that the time needed to truly understand, counsel, and care for our patients is significantly more than what is typically allowed or reimbursed. Having enough time is critical for caretakers to learn, think about, and respond in a safe, efficient, and effective way to the variety of health issues addressed in a primary care clinic. Adequate time is vital to establishing communication, trust, shared decision-making and goal-setting with our patients. And that will affect health outcomes.

If an MGH employee asked you for three reasons to become an APF patient, what would you say?

A:  1) We care for you with passion. Passion for who we are, for what we do, and for who we work with – including our patients. And we listen to you with patience.

2) We aim to be accessible when and where you need care, be it in person, or via “virtual” visits (messaging, phone or even webcam).

3) You have a unique opportunity to be a part of a real team effort in your care.  Together we can make a bigger and better impact on your health and wellness.

To find out more about the Ambulatory Practice of the Future, visit

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