Report faults HHS on healthcare workforce planning

The Department of Health and Human Services must develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of healthcare workers, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

While HHS plans for its various agencies' 72 healthcare workforce programs to some extent, the GAO states, it does not have comprehensive oversight in place to align that planning with national healthcare workforce needs. The department's existing strategic plan includes broad efforts, such as improving preventive and primary care access in underserved areas, but is short on specifics with regard to how these programs feed into HHS performance targets.

Moreover, the GAO found the department's current measures for workforce performance concentrate on specific programs rather than HHS' across-the-board workforce goals. The report also cites protests from stakeholders such as the Institute of Medicine and the Council on Graduate Medical Education that graduate medical education lacks the resources for tasks such as tracking outcomes and addressing new challenges as they emerge.

The GAO also made recommendations for executive actions the Secretary of Health and Human Services can take to address these issues, including developing a comprehensive uniform plan for HHS healthcare workforce development programs. Such a plan should feature performance measures that give a better idea of how the programs meet the department's overall mission of strengthening healthcare, as well as identifying any gaps between program capabilities and eventual healthcare workforce needs.

The report comes less than a month after the GAO similarly faulted the Food and Drug Administration's strategic plan for health information technology, as well as similar issues with the rollout of Medicare's value-based purchasing program.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)