Health Center News

Health Center Staffing Patterns a Model?

A study published in Health Affairs reveals how non-physician staff can contribute to productivity.  Researchers examined medical staffing patterns at Community Health Centers across the United States. They identified four different staffing patterns: typical, high advanced-practice staff, high nursing staff, and high other medical staff. Overall, they found that in terms of productivity per staff everyone was at the same level. Productivity can affect a lot at a health care organization in terms of personnel costs and patient visits, and overall efficiency. But researchers concluded that while physicians make the greatest contributions to productivity, advanced-practice staff, nurses, and other medical staff also contribute. Interestingly, the study underscores the value of team based care.  They write:

“Traditionally, productivity is measured based on the number of visits in which a physician (or advanced-practice staff member) sees a patient. This ignores the roles of other staff, however. A single clinician is not usually the sole provider of patient’s care. A medical assistant may take vital signs; a physician may conduct the evaluation and make a diagnosis; and a nurse may draw blood, administer an injection, or educate the patient. According to a team-based care perspective, the visit should be viewed in terms of the joint productivity of the overall team.”

Health center staffing patterns vary from place to place, and the fact that health centers are located in medically underserved areas consistently pose provider recruitment challenges.  Other factors that apply are nurse practitioner scope-of-practice laws, and patient characteristics such as insurance status. The healthcare blog Fierce HealthCare also noted in a recent post that the study’s findings suggest that other group medical practices could employ the same staffing patterns without disrupting productivity and at the same time protect their bottom line.

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