Building the Health Care Workforce for the Future
By 2014, health reform will provide health coverage to tens of thousands more Minnesotans, enabling them to access the health care they need. These new patients, along with the retirement of baby boomers, will increase demands on the health care workforce.
While health reform increases the need for services, it also invests in the health care workforce so that Minnesotans can receive the right care at the right time. The primary care workforce is the foundation of a strong health care system. These are the doctors, nurses, and physicians’ assistants who help patients prevent disease and identify illness early when it does occur.
Health reform strengthens support for these providers overall, and particularly encourages them to practice in the communities where they are most needed.
Health reform also encourages new graduates to practice specialties that have a shortage of providers, like mental health and geriatrics.
State efforts to build Minnesota's workforce of the future focus primarily on the following areas:
• Workforce Planning and Analysis - In order to ensure a strong health care workforce, policymakers and educators need to understand current workforce trends.
- Will there be enough health care workers to meet the demands to come under health care reform?
In anticipation of health reform and the aging population, Minnesota has begun planning to ensure that the health care workforce meets the needs of the state now and in the future.
- Where are health workforce shortages the greatest in Minnesota?
In 2009, 11.5% of the primary care physicians practiced in a rural county where 12.6% of Minnesotans lived. however, only 4.6% of specialist physicians practiced in a rural county. More than three quarters of primary care physicians and about 88% of specialists are practicing in one of the 21 Metropolitian Statistical Area counties in Minnesota, which have 72.8% of the state's population. Additional details, including the breakdown of physician distribution by 15 sub-regions of the state, are available in a 2009 Report from the Minnesota Department of Health.
- What areas of health care are experiencing the most challenges in attracting health care professionals?
A strong primary care workforce is the foundation of an efficient and effective health care system. Yet students considering a career in primary care must weigh the challenges of paying for a health professional education with future earnings, which are often substantially less in primary care compared to higher-paying specialties. In many parts of the state, there are also shortages of providers for specialty services like mental health, long-term care, and dental care.
- How is Minnesota extending the role of current primary care providers?
Minnesota has been a national leader in creating options to help extend the role of traditional primary care providers – family physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants – by authorizing and developing new professions like community health workers, community paramedics, dental therapists and advanced dental therapists.
- What does health reform do to address potential workforce shortages?
Health reform takes a comprehensive approach to workforce issues by
• Health Workforce Planning and Analysis. In order to ensure a strong health care workforce, policymakers and educators need to understand the current workforce and trends in supply and demand.
• Education and Training for Health Care Providers. Health reform provides support to Minnesota’s higher education system to educate the wide range of needed health care providers.
• Encouraging primary care and practice in underserved areas. New financial assistance opportunities encourage graduates to enter primary care and work in rural and underserved areas.
• Making health care more efficient. Models like the Health Care Home maximize contributions of health care workers and decrease utilization of health care by improving coordination.