A report by the Brookings Institution released this summer raises important questions about the need to look to the role of the pre-baccalaureate workforce in addressing the ongoing effort to achieve health care’s “triple aim“–improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); Improving the health of populations; and Reducing the per capita cost of health care. These frontline workers in health care are, literally, the ones with their fingers on the pulse of the patient experience and often provide keen insights into where wasted costs can be found.
One thing that struck me as I read through the report is how little mention is made of the role of universities. The third recommendation of the report, “Develop and strengthen regional healthcare partnerships of employers and educators to meet regional healthcare workforce needs, with a focus on helping pre-baccalaureate workers increase their skills and advance on the job” seems to place more emphasis on the role of community colleges, than our major national universities. And, quite clearly, there is a role for both. Yet, with the development of online programs, the opportunities to partner in this way would seem to be growing.
In addition to making our programs available in an online format for pre-baccalaureate healthcare employees, what other changes do we need to consider in our curriculum and courses? At Penn State, we serve a student population that is largely young, inexperienced, and seeking an initial entry-level management or policy position. Front-line workers are more experienced, more diverse in many ways, and seeking both to improve current skills and seek advancement, perhaps in both clinical and administrative areas. I suspect that our efforts in trying to partner with employers and these workers will require us to get a better understanding of their needs, and re-fashion our education to meet those needs. It will have to become more relevant to their daily work, as well as better at connecting these front-line workers and their work to both their future path, and the future paths of the triple aim in health care.