Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Administration

First Advisor

Laura McClelland

Second Advisor

Jessica Mittler

Third Advisor

Sara Singer

Fourth Advisor

Timothy Vogus


Team-based primary care is an innovative care delivery model that has the potential to improve access to comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality patient care. It is understood that in order for primary care teams to work effectively, health care providers must work across disciplinary boundaries and develop strong relationships that enable them to coordinate their roles and expertise. This research investigated how health care providers make use of different team structures (i.e., tools) to manage their interdependent work, enabling them to deliver team-based primary care. This research also examined how team structures influence the intra-team relationships important for coordinating care. By exploring the different ways primary care teams enact team structures, this research identifies ways primary care teams use team structures differently to address the needs of patients and coordinate team-based care.

In-person interviews were conducted at 7 primary care clinics participating in a population health management program in a southeastern city in the United States. Research participants from various health care disciplines (e.g., medicine, nursing, social work) were asked to describe their experiences delivering team-based primary care. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Data were analyzed using a constant comparative approach in order to investigate how different team structures were used to address the needs of patients and the challenges of delivering team-based primary care.

The data suggested that primary care teams enact structures in different ways. In some teams, huddles were used to anticipate the specific needs of patients and coordinating care, referrals occurred via warm handoffs with co-located providers, and protocols were used to facilitate collaborative problem-solving. In other clinics, huddles were focused on clinic operations, referrals were performed using traditional methods (e.g., phone calls), and protocols were used to guide task delegation. Participants in some clinics described how team huddles were used to leverage high-quality relationships by fostering respectful interactions between team members. More research is needed to determine whether the use of patient-focused huddles, warm handoffs, and protocols that initiate problem-solving is associated with better patient outcomes, particularly for patient populations with complex medical and non-medical needs.


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