Members of Practice Sights Present Workforce Educational Webinar

On May 24, 2017, team members of the Practice Sights Retention Collaborative were invited to present at a co-sponsored National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and National Rural & Recruitment Retention Network (3RNet) workforce educational webinar. The webinar covered the importance of collaboration, a background of the Practice Sights project, the formation of the retention collaborative, and an overview of the data system.

Click here to view the recording of the webinar.

A flexible workforce is essential for the future of our health care system. A massive shift in the way services are reimbursed is coming. This prompts a similar shift in how we train the workforce that keeps our communities healthy. Federally funded insurance will pay providers based on the quality of care instead of the quantity. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is already funding pilot projects to encourage this change. These “value-based payment” projects are causing a bloom of experiments all over the country. The goal of these experiments is to provide patients with preventative and comprehensive care that is high quality and affordable.3RNet Logo and text

It’s a big challenge. But it will be easier to manage if healthcare providers learn from each other. On August 18, the NCFAHP, Practice Sights, and 3Rnet hosted the first of many webinars to begin a national conversation on the creative models in action across the country. Rural areas, because of their small size and their unique needs, are excellent places for experimentation.

The webinar is titled “New Models of Care and their Impact on Rural Workforce.” The conversation was led by Erin Fraher, PhD, an expert on health workforce research at UNC-Chapel Hill, and representatives from three states presenting on projects in their community.

3RNet Goals List

Erin Fraher set the stage for the discussion by explaining the difference between “old school” and “new school” workforce characteristics. In conventional, fee-for-service models, the healthcare workforce is trained to operate in isolated specialties instead of in coordinated teams. The “new school” workforce reaches patients in their community, rather than in a hospital or an acute care setting. This new workforce will maximize the responsibility of medical assistants, panel managers, dieticians, and health coaches. These teams will have a different work flow to accommodate new roles.

Fraher stresses that we will have to prepare and equip the 18 million members of our healthcare workforce for this change. Medical training will also need to include an emphasis on integrated care and include rotations with teams that are following a coordinated model.

The rural health centers from North Carolina, Oregon and Colorado are piloting a variety of projects in an attempt to launch value-based care. Every state is different, but all three are creatively addressing the unique needs of their community.

Chris Collins from the North Carolina Office of Rural Health & Community Care discussed the variety of loan repayment programs to attract medical workers to underserved areas, including therapists in integrated care settings. Collins also discussed the growth of telehealth services in North Carolina and the efforts to fill the gaps.

Melissa Bosworth of the Colorado Rural Health Center presented their work on creating a data bank to show the economic impact of their programs. Those programs include reducing the number of mentorship hours for nurse practitioners and introducing mediation services to improve office culture in clinics. The Colorado Rural Health Center is also pairing health IT students with rural clinics to help them transition to changing technologies.

Scott Ekblad from the Oregon Office of Rural Health highlighted the 16 coordinated care organizations across the state. Fourteen of these organizations are rural. These organizations have a “global budget,” and are given the creative power to meet needs. They have an incentive to keep Oregon citizens well using community health teams. Medical assistants, dental hygienists and community paramedics have more responsibility and are well connected to patients in a community setting.

Practice Sights and the NCFAHP will continue the conversation on the efforts of states that are moving to value-based care. Stay tuned for the next webinar!

Jackie_FannellRural areas are hard pressed to attract and place skilled clinicians, and loan repayment for health care education plays an important role in attracting clinicians to rural or underserved areas. When you recruit a clinician to a small rural or underserved area, and provide no community support, there is a possibility that this individual may not be happy, and ultimately will not stay once their service obligation has been met.

There has to be a partnership. There has to be support. And there has to be buy-in from the entire community so that the clinician feels welcomed as a part of that community from his or her first day on the job.

This is where the Practice Sights Retention Management System comes in.  Currently being utilized by an 11-state collaborative, each of which operates the program independently, data provides states and staff of incentive programs with information to make clinicians’ service experiences as positive and productive as possible.

Practice Sights collects data in the form of questionnaires sent to clinicians and practice administrators via email. The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research (Sheps Center) provides expertise on data collection, analysis and dissemination. The questionnaire clinicians receive three months after the start of their service obligation asks about their background, their reasons for applying to the program (needing financial assistance and/or wanting to provide care to an underserved population or area) and their needs, values and expectations of their current position and community.  Annual and end-of-contract questionnaires will ask about their current work, whether the role is meeting their professional goals, etc.  The questionnaires will also ask them to rate their satisfaction with various aspects of their community and practices. Alumni questionnaires are sent periodically and ask clinicians if they are at the same site and, if not, to provide information about their current work.


The rich data collected by Practice Sights allows state program administrators to identify problem areas so that they can work with site administrators to improve overall clinician retention in rural areas. The challenge, notes Jackie Fannell, Program Manager for Practice Sights, comes in getting clinicians to respond to the questionnaires, — particularly program alumni, who are no longer obligated under their contract.  Most states are now seeing over 50% response rates across the board. While this leaves room to grow, it still provides a rich set of data to help improve clinician retention.

Practice Sights plans to bring more states into the collaborative and continue to grow the program. There is no other system that collects data on clinician retention in this manner and it will become more valuable and have even greater impact moving forward and the aggregated data shows trends and reveals what is working and what is not.

Community factors have been shown to greatly impact physician retention. The findings of a 2012 report prepared for the Multi-State/NHSC Retention Collaborative by the Sheps Center calls for programs to help communities learn the important role they play in clinician retention and the things they can do to promote retention, engage community leaders and intervene early — before small problems escalate — when clinicians encounter difficulties with their communities. Efforts to build Accountable Care Communities in North Carolina and other states could be an important step in bringing communities into the health-care conversation. Including community input and participation in health care from the start could help ensure acceptance and support for new providers, rather than waiting until issues arise or only including community voices as an afterthought.

Accountable Care Communities are an important part of clinician recruitment and retention in rural areas. With Accountable Care Communities, the community is involved with all aspects of the health-care environment, and is more vested in supporting and including clinicians and their families in the community. Practice Sights, in turn, plays an important role in helping create Accountable Care Communities, with its data driving the awareness of where community and other support is lacking, as well as allowing communities to become better-equipped to receive and support new clinicians from day one.