April 24th, 2014
Care guides. Patient navigators. Community health workers. Everywhere, primary care providers are experimenting with new roles for care team members. It’s not hard to understand why. Developing a truly patient-centered, team-based approach means medical providers must experiment with how services are provided, and who delivers them.
At the same time, there are many established players within the health care system who are not being utilized or trained to their full potential. For example, medical assistants perform a wide variety of functions—sometimes rudimentary, other times advanced. There are more than 570,000 medical assistants working today, with median earnings of about $29,000 per year, and medical assisting as a profession is projected to grow at a rate of 29 percent through 2022. Training and preparation for this position is uneven—often inadequate—and many medical assistants carry training-related debt.
Five years ago, the Hitachi Foundation set out to find employers who were investing in their own frontline workers through training, career ladders, and business model innovations. We wanted to understand how US businesses could improve the quality of lower-wage jobs, not through unsustainable corporate philanthropy or good intentions, but through training, organizational efficiency, and improving internal operations.
Our Good Companies @ Work program identified nearly 100 employers (including more than sixty in health care) that we call “pioneer employers.” These are companies that benefit their patients, customers, and/or shareholders by strategically investing in their own lower-wage workers. Pioneer employers go beyond typical ideas about “great places to work” and demonstrate how firms can actually align the interests of employees and management to create better results for communities while also improving business results. We discovered a number of health care practices that expanded the roles of medical assistants within care teams, and by doing so, these practices saw improvements in both patient health outcomes and operational efficiency. Read the rest of this entry »