The healthcare workforce of the future

By | August 15, 2017

As we shift our thinking to value-based, person-centered care, we must also think about the workforce needed to deliver on our new promises, how to train such individuals, and where this new workforce will come from.

Historically, we have trained our healthcare workforce to help with the process of diagnosing and treating without much regard for the human behavioral needs of those we serve. Obviously, anyone who enters the health sciences as a vocation is truly a servant to those they care for and want to do so in a holistic manner. Unfortunately, we do not train our clinical staff in such a manner. First and foremost, we must think about the curricula and training techniques that are needed to address this behavioral component as well as the focus that is needed to solve social determinants of health.

This latter point leads us to ask two very basic questions: What types of health providers will we need in the future, and what will be their main focus? All of us have realized that until we address the non-clinical needs of those we care for, we will continue to struggle to improve their clinical health. This change of focus has led to the realization that multiple skill sets are needed to create the “team” to surround a person and create a model that delivers value within the context of that person’s needs. As we better define the needs of those we serve and begin to think about how we structure such models that are cost effective and scalable, we must remember that many of the functions will need to be done by people that do not exist today in large enough numbers that will support the scale needed.

As we plan for addressing this need for a new type of workforce, we also have to begin designing models of education and recruitment to create that workforce. We have to work in conjunction with present-day educators in and outside of healthcare, and think about staff recruitment in new ways.

This shift in workforce is very similar to what happens whenever a new technology is created, such as computers. When computers first appeared, there were no programmers just waiting on the side lines to begin writing code. The workforce had to be created.

We also need to think about retraining present-day healthcare providers for the future needs of those we serve. If we continue to shift our focus to continuity of care with a focus on decreasing hospitalizations, there will be a workforce that could be displaced.

We are truly entering a new day concerning health status improvement in a manner that is much more person-centric and consumer-driven. As we design these new models of care and delivery, we must remember to create the workforce that will support the new infrastructure.