Early in the decade, the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) workforce agenda focused on a “Grow Our Own” workforce strategy
. As the decade, and healthcare, progressed, so did WHA’s workforce agenda. In addition to “Grow Our Own,” WHA and its members have been focused on building a workforce that supports highly integrated health care delivery. This workforce strategy necessarily has many components aimed at supporting members’ work beyond the traditional walls of the hospital.
One element of the WHA strategy that remains is WHA-crafted “Grow Our Own” training grants, which are part of the multi-stakeholder Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Health Care Workforce Initiative. The grants spur public-private partnerships working to increase Wisconsin’s health care workforce. The state-funded grants became law in 2013 and were updated in 2019. Funding through the Health Care Workforce Initiative’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) grant program has supported the creation of ten new residency programs and expansion of an additional ten programs. These new and expanded programs will train an estimated 151 new physicians in Wisconsin by 2024.
Now reflecting the emphasis on integrated delivery, the focus of the grant program has broadened. “In 2019, WHA asked the state to include additional in-demand specialties beyond the original primary care specialties in the physician residency grants, and that change was made in the fiscal year 2019-21 Wisconsin state budget,” noted WHA Senior Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk. Recently, DHS awarded matching grants totaling more than $3.1 million to help rural hospitals, health systems and educational entities train more physicians, advanced practice clinicians (APCs) and allied health professionals.
WHA also has been working to support integrated care by developing the available workforce, such as by enabling APCs to practice at the top of their licenses in Wisconsin. Those efforts have included working with the Legislature, practitioner examining boards and the Medicaid program to prevent state statutes, regulations and policies from unnecessarily restricting practitioner scopes of practice and modes of care delivery.
Another key component of WHA’s integrated health care delivery strategy is the WHA Physician Leaders Council. In 2014, WHA established the council to tap into the significant resources and perspectives that WHA-member physician leaders bring to Wisconsin’s health and hospital systems. The council has addressed a number of issues and provided significant input to support WHA’s efforts. For example, WHA took a leadership role in advancing the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact to speed up the physician licensure process. WHA developed additional language that was included in the compact legislation to address potential concerns identified by the council. The council also provided input on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and WHA’s telemedicine agenda.
WHA’s workforce agenda, of course, has been affected by COVID-19. Hospitals and health systems have needed the Wisconsin health care workforce to increase quickly to care for the surge of patients requiring all levels of care. WHA worked with the Legislature, the administration and state agencies to establish a streamlined process that allows some practitioners licensed in other states to care for Wisconsin patients. Some of the process changes support integrated care delivery; WHA continues to pursue certain flexibilities on a more permanent basis to help grow the workforce and provide greater access to integrated care.
Although there is much uncertainty in health care today, it is certain that patient care needs and, thus, workforce demands and challenges will evolve over the next decade, as will WHA’s workforce agenda.