July 15, 2016
What are the skills and competencies needed in the health care workforce to provide a coordinated experience for the patient and family in a fast-transforming health care landscape?
That is one of the questions posed by a workforce consortium that is co-convened by FLHSA and Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council looking into the needs of the local health care workforce.
During its June 29 meeting, the Regional Consortium on Health Care Workforce accepted the recommendations of the advisory groups to continue exploring how to develop skills and competencies in the healthcare workforce in three key areas: partnering with patients and families in care, working as teams within and across organizations, and gaining technological skills in such tools as effective use of electronic health records, telemedicine, and data registries.
“The consortium is meant to coordinate with and not duplicate the efforts of other local and regional groups working on issues related to the capacity of the health care workforce,” said Anne Ruflin, chief planning officer for FLHSA.
As state and federal initiatives seek to drive providers toward the Triple Aim — better outcomes, lower costs and improved patient experience — three tensions are emerging in local workforce needs: labor shortages and maldistribution; financial pressures related to wages and payment reform; and increasing pressure to train staff in existing and emerging roles and skills.
To address these challenges, the Regional Consortium on Health Care Workforce brings together leadership from educational institutions, health care providers and other employers, along with representative consumers. During the first phase of this project, the consortium is identifying new skills and competencies required for the current and future health care workers and recommending key elements for training and educational programs.
The consortium is scheduled to issue its Phase 1 recommendations in January 2017 to meet the nine-county Finger Lakes region’s future workforce needs. Additional phases will be convened based on the Phase 1 recommendations.
The advisory groups, which are informing the work of the full consortium, recommended that current and new clinicians learn skills to partner with patients and families, including learning how to assess their engagement and how to teach patients and families care at home. The group also recommended training to ensure that heath care workers have cultural competence in communicating with with patients from diverse backgrounds.
To encourage effective teamwork within and across organizations, the advisory group called for a focus on quality and process improvement strategies, including lean approaches, facilitation, team meeting skills and conflict resolution.
Ruflin said clinicians on the advisory teams also identified critical thinking, organizational and problem-solving skills as one of the skill sets most needed by staff working in a rapidly changing health care environment.
“How do you keep them current with skills and capacities needed in a very dynamic organization that is transforming to value based systems and changing medical technology?” Ruflin asked.
To encourage efficient technological skills, the advisory groups recommended that workers be trained in the use of electronic health records, telemedicine, home-based technologies, and population registries and analysis.
“There are ways to analyze data from an EMR to drive improvement, but the effectiveness of an electronic medical record is only as good as the people who input information into it and get information from it,” Ruflin said.
Additionally, patients are using self-monitoring devices, including blood pressure monitors or digital scales, and health care professionals need to stay current on advances in these technologies, she said.
The advisory committees pointed out that current health care workers have been fatigued by the rapid pace of change, said Melissa Wendland, director of strategic initiatives for FLHSA.
“The advisory team identified staff burnout as at a high and noted that workforce strategies should incorporate considerations of the staff experience to ensure sustainability,” Wendland said.
The consortium also called for an assessment of potential barriers to effective use of the healthcare workforce that might stem from New York State’s current license and scope of practice limitations, starting with registered nurses. Wendland said this analysis will include a comparison of New York’s scope of practice to other states. Reimbursements for nurses in various settings may also be an issue to be explored, she said.
“We are looking at what is essential for the workforce to keep pace with health care transformation,” Wendland said.