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The Workforce in Healthcare Reform: A New View of a Critical Situation

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By Bonnie Owens, senior vice president of Staff Care/AMN Healthcare

April 25, 2013 - A rising tide of data and information is revealing the clear link between workforce solutions and success in healthcare reform. The latest is the 2013 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends by Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company, which serves to reinforce the reality of growing shortages in disciplines that are crucial to the patient-centered care model that is central to health reform.

The Staff Care survey showed that for the second consecutive year and fifth time in the last six years, temporary (locum tenens) primary care physicians are in greatest demand, accounting for 24 percent of total days requested. Meanwhile, behavioral health also faces clinician shortages. Eighteen percent of temporary healthcare professional days requested by Staff Care clients are for behavioral health specialists.

There results seem to align with other indicators, as well. For instance, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has projected a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians by 2025, while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says demand for general psychiatrists is expected to increase 19 percent between 1995 and 2020 and 100 percent for child and adolescent psychiatrists.

Primary care physicians are the hub of the patient-centered, team-approach model being advanced by healthcare reform. Under this model, which is growing in both private and public coverage, everyone has a primary care physician who is the anchor of the patient-centered team. All referrals to specialists are coordinated by primary care clinicians, and so is wellness, electronic health records tracking and other facets of what is known as “whole patient” care.

Behavioral health, including both mental health and substance use disorder treatment, are integrated into general healthcare under healthcare reform, with primary care physicians being involved in patients’ behavioral health as never before. Additionally, public and private plans available through state health insurance exchanges must offer behavioral health coverage at parity with medical and surgical coverage. That means that many people currently covered by public and private health plans will have new access to behavioral healthcare, in addition to the 32 million Americans who will be newly covered by healthcare reform.

Among other key findings, this annual survey on temporary physician demand is a frontline view of how workforce problems will affect healthcare reform, as shortages in the disciplines central to reform may be the biggest threat to its long-term success.


© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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