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.
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.
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!