The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policies impact the daily lives of people in our state. David Jordan is the president of the Hutchinson resident United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.
Healthcare is critical to our communities — and it’s under increasing pressure. In part 1 of this series We addressed the challenges Kansas faces in supporting the health systems and workforce needed for our communities to thrive.
By recognizing changing demographics, workforce challenges and changes in healthcare delivery, we have the opportunity to build a sustainable healthcare system for the future.
To plan ahead and better understand the health worker crisis, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund Contract research to examine the current training pipeline for healthcare professionals in Kansas. Researchers from the KU School of Medicine and McPherson College analyzed 2019 program completion data using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
As health care faces significant staff shortagesThe report illustrates an opportunity for Kansas — with health-professional programs statewide — to strengthen that foundation and increase our native workforce.
In 2019, 11,804 students completed 459 health career programs at 51 Kansas institutions. Most (62.7%) have completed courses of two years or less. Most graduates have degrees in nursing or allied health.
This is the case for most graduates from programs with two years of education or less Reducing credit losses and barriers to additional education and graduation we must Ensure barrier-free transfer routes from two-year to four-year post-secondary institutions. We should also review policies to require credit transfers between Kansas higher education institutions.
Likewise, we must align secondary, technical, and post-secondary education programs and ensure that health education completed in high school is transferrable and aligned with coursework and the needs of employers.
We should continue to invest in non-traditional staff development programs like the one recently launched by Governor Laura Kelly training officewhich aims to develop and train new talent in critical industries such as healthcare.
We need to study scope and payment policies to make the most of our people, and implement intelligent systems and policies that allow each vendor on the team to work to the top of their scope.
An example is the newly recognized Community Health Worker Program in Kansaswhich trains community members in a certificate program to provide essential health coaching, resource and care coordination services, education and navigation services. CHWs help consumers better navigate systems and reduce the use of expensive services. They allow providers to focus on practicing to the max and reducing the stress on overworked staff. While CHWs are now certified, We need to change Medicaid reimbursement policies to ensure providers can be paid for their services.
We have the opportunity to make better use of providers such as physician assistants, dental therapists and others to provide care from physician-led teams. Expanding the scope of team members can increase capacity and address workforce challenges.
We can use technology to maximize our workforce and better serve Kansans. Telemedicine offers this possibility. Before COVID-19, only 11% of US consumers used telemedicine, but in 2020 its unique benefits (particularly in rural areas) became apparent. Now consumers and providers agree that telemedicine is here to staythat play a key role in integrated, patient-centric care systems.
Ensure that all Kansas residents have access to reliable broadband allows us to redistribute workers and design our healthcare system differently. Residents can access hard-to-recruit specialty care in their communities, benefiting them while reducing the hassle of recruiting. However, we need to change policy to encourage this innovation in the long term.
The competitiveness of the labor force requires a financially sustainable system. Kansas is one of only 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid, putting hospitals and other providers at financial risk. extension would eliminate high levels of unpaid carehelping prevent further hospital closures and benefiting all Kansas health care providers.
Changing needs require new approaches. Under the Rural emergency hospital Model, Hospitals continue to provide emergency services and routine care but cancel the acute inpatient care.
Aside from direct workforce and health care issues, we need to ensure Kansas has community support to ensure health care workers stay in Kansas, including childcare. A 2020 study reported Only 3% of Kansas counties reached desired capacity – before COVID-19. When solving the Childcare Crisis requires sustained work at all levels of government, we can take steps todayincluding better use of childcare funds.
There is no single solution. Increasing our healthcare workforce requires research, collaboration, policy changes and a willingness to change the status quo. By working together, Kansans can ensure our communities have health care and thrive for generations. Join the conversation at https://communityconversationsks.com.
Through its voice section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people affected by public policy or excluded from public debate. Find information including how to submit your own comment, here.