Innovation Needed to Staff Community Health Centers

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As millions of new healthcare consumers gain coverage through the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, federally-funded community health centers are growing in popularity. The authors of a new study in "Health Affairs" noted that as community health centers continue to grow, they will face significant staffing pressures and may have to develop innovative staffing approaches to meet the growing need.

The researchers examined staffing patterns in community health centers to see if any particular staffing model was more productive than another. Their findings showed that there is no single “optimal” staffing model. Each community health center must determine what type of staffing will best suit their needs—and their abilities to staff. The study found that while physicians make the greatest contributions to productivity at the clinics, advance-practice staff, nurses and other medical staff also make significant contributions.

“It is possible to include a broad array of advanced-practice staff, nurses and other medical staff in ambulatory medical practices to work alongside physicians and make meaningful contributions to productivity,” the researchers wrote. “There is further room for innovation in the effective use of lower-level staff.”