Originally posted on, 10/28/13

Matching labor supply with service demand is a challenge for many US industries, but perhaps no industry faces greater workforce pressures than health care. In the new era of system reform, with 32 million more newly insured Americans seeking health care coverage in 2014, resources will be stretched and staffing needs – from clinicians to home health aides, information technology specialists to billers and coders – are expected to grow exponentially.

• The team approach. Innovative providers are shifting from traditional physician-centered models to patient-focused teams. These teams typically include advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants and other allied clinicians – “physician extenders” – that broaden the reach of physician capabilities and enable all professionals to practice at the full extent of their training and licensure. Mid-level professionals can provide a lower-cost alternative to physicians and help fill the gaps anticipated by a growing physician shortage.

• Patient engagement positions. As the health care system moves toward better- coordinated care, more effective management of chronic disease, and ongoing wellness programs, new kinds of jobs are emerging. For example, patient care coordinators serve as advocates, working with patients, caregivers and administrators to reach health care goals. Chronic disease management specialists keep patients engaged in their care through motivational coaching. Community health workers – lay people trained by medical and public health professionals – support behaviors that can improve lifestyle choices. Grand-Aides®, a new kind of nurse extender, use telephone protocols and home visits to improve patient access to care and to reduce avoidable emergency room visits.

• Group appointments. A growing number of medical practices are holding group appointments to ease physician workloads and efficiently treat more patients. In these shared visits, a physician consults simultaneously with up to a dozen patients who have similar medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer. Along with getting more face time with their doctors, patients gain support from peers in actively managing their conditions and becoming more accountable for their health.

• Telehealth technologies. Innovations in “care at a distance” technologies offer new ways for providers to navigate resource constraints and manage increased demand more efficiently. Such remote monitoring services as the e-ICU provide synchronous, real-time alerts and notifications that can significantly improve patient outcomes while reducing resource use, while e-trauma services can extend clinical knowledge to remote, understaffed locations to inform critical decision-making. Videoconferencing and remote monitoring devices have found their way also into the home, enabling patients to connect conveniently with their providers for virtual visits, course correction and improved disease management.

The new era of health care delivery opens unprecedented opportunities for the industry to address workforce challenges with fresh approaches and renewed vigor. With an eye toward innovation, providers can help mitigate shortages, maximize resources and deliver the future: team-based, high-value, patient-centered “care anywhere.”

William A. Fera, MD is a principal in the Advisory Health Care practice of Ernst & Young LLP. He is a based in Pittsburgh, Penn. Follow Bill on Twitter: @BillFeraEY


About Morgan Hunter HealthSearch
Morgan Hunter HealthSearch (MHHS) provides Executive Search and Interim Leadership solutions for hospitals and health systems throughout the United States.  Our services include executive healthcare recruiting, retained healthcare executive search, healthcare interim management, executive placement for hospitals

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