What the healthcare worker of the future will look like

As the industry continues to focus on value-based care, the way healthcare workers engage with patients will also change. This means many clinicians need training on how to treat patients based on their overall needs and not solely on their disease or condition.

Today, nurses and doctors receive training on how to take care of patients' medical problems. But their education doesn't take into account psychosocial factors that influence a person's overall health--and recognizing those factors is necessary in order to treat patients under value-based care models, Jordan Asher, M.D., chief medical officer and chief integration officer at MissionPoint in Nashville, Tennessee, a subsidiary of Ascension, the nation's largest Catholic and not-for-profit health system, told FierceHealthcare during an exclusive interview.

Asher, pictured, believes that hospitals and health systems must retrain staff so they have the skills to improve patients' overall health status as well as manage entire populations of patients. "I think the healthcare worker of the future has different skill set needs not being worked on right now," he says.

Consider the case of a patient who has a history of hypertension. A physician may suggest the patient lose five to 10 pounds so he no longer has to take a prescription medication. But even if the doctor puts the patient on a diet, there is no guarantee he will lose weight, especially if the patient lives in a family that centers all social interactions on food.

"So I would need to understand the patient's cultural situation. The patient may need to learn how to cook food in a less fattening way. But how do you begin to work on those things? These are the psychosocial dynamics and behaviors that we have not focused on," Asher says.

Asher believes clinicians will welcome the retraining, as it will make their jobs more fulfilling. "Everyone goes in to healthcare to help people," he says, "and it is frustrating when we don't have the impact we want because of psychosocial reasons."

Asher's comments echo statements made recently at the American College of Healthcare Executives' 2015 Congress, where speakers discussed the pressing need for healthcare workers to understand the unique needs of diverse groups of patients, such as Asian and Latino populations and the aging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.

"We definitely need to stop the bleeding and be proactive" to increase access to care for underserved populations, Jamahal Boyd, director of multicultural competence and inclusion at Mercy Health in Ohio and northern Kentucky, said at the meeting. To effectively tackle this issue, he told attendees that healthcare leaders need to provide "a quality of care that's standard but that is delivered in a customized way." 

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