WCMEW Hears New, Existing Health Care Workforce Initiatives

June 16, 2017

Members and community partners provided updates regarding workforce-related activities, ranging from legislative initiatives to rural clinical rotations and trends in pharmacy practice at the June 7 meeting of the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce (WCMEW). Council meetings serve as a platform to increase awareness of new strategies to address workforce issues, build trust across industry actors and develop policies to improve the Wisconsin health workforce.

WCMEW Executive Director George Quinn introduced new WCMEW Program Analyst Richelle Andrae. With the additional staff member, WCMEW can leverage the work of the Council by expanding data analysis capabilities, developing a more comprehensive annual workforce report and strengthening relationships among statewide partners.

Legislative Update
Kyle O’Brien, WHA senior vice president, government relations, provided an update of health-related legislative items currently under review by the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (JFC). 

To support long-term care, Gov. Scott Walker recommended a two percent increase in funding for both nursing home and personal care rates. The JFC added in additional funding to support dementia care specialists and also an innovative pilot program to provide reimbursement for providers involved in care coordination activities for Medicaid enrollees who are high utilizers of hospital emergency departments.

Of the many issues related to the health of Wisconsin residents, O’Brien focused on those potentially tied to workforce. New dollars for training advanced practice clinicians such as physician assistants, along with allied health professionals, is also included in the budget package put forward by the JFC. Additional state funding for existing graduate medical education (GME) and expansion of related consortia is recommended. See the March 2017 WCMEW newsletter for further discussion of legislative initiatives. 

Rural Workforce Training
Kara Traxler, director, Wisconsin Collaborative for Rural GME (WCRGME), presented the ongoing work of rural health care training and education partners. WCRGME provides technical assistance to rural hospitals with the goal of expanding rural GME and supporting urban programs in starting rural care tracks. Activities include connecting academics to rural sites, events for preceptor and administrative training and development of GME regional consortia.

WiNC, a Northern Wisconsin collaborative that includes the Medical College of Wisconsin, 12 health care systems and GME programs—with WCMEW and the Rural Wisconsin Health cooperatives as partners—is seeking to form a consortium to coordinate GME and health care workforce initiatives.

Competitive Wisconsin Initiative
James Wood, strategic counsel to Competitive Wisconsin, described the current initiative Be Bold III, which focuses on maximizing the impact of the Wisconsin business sector in the areas of food manufacturing and health care. The full report, due in late June, will highlight Wisconsin’s greatest resource—its talent. Wood stressed the importance of acting now to develop comprehensive, creative system wide changes through business competitive factors (such as the tax and regulatory environments), cost and quality of living and increased synergy between the public and private sectors. 

Changing Role for Pharmacists
Sarah Sorum, PharmD, vice president, professional and educational affairs of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, shed light on the transforming role of pharmacists in today’s complex health care environment. Sorum said practicing at the top of one’s license is essential to advancing the role of pharmacy to support patients. Traditionally seen as outside clinical settings, pharmacists are increasingly included in care teams, particularly through collaborative practices with physicians. Reimbursement challenges, training and lack of awareness regarding pharmacist capabilities in provision of care continue to serve as barriers to more integrated practice.

Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine
Byron Crouse, MD, associate dean for rural and community health, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, provided an overview of the WARM program’s accomplishments in training and retaining physicians in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine, or WARM, places medical students in rural rotations, aiming to increase long-term interest in rural Wisconsin practice. Of the total 126 graduates to date, almost half (46 percent) accepted Wisconsin residencies, with 52 percent in primary care. Of the 35 graduates who have completed their residencies since the program’s 2007 inception, a staggering 91 percent currently practice in Wisconsin, with 58 percent of these physicians practicing in rural areas. At this point, the program seeks to implement new curriculum, improve the effectiveness and value of community projects and continue to support students through decreasing the burden of travel and strengthening advising services. 

This story originally appeared in the June 16, 2017 edition of WHA Newsletter