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Six principles to enhance health workforce flexibility

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      Abstract

      AbstractThis paper proposes approaches to break down the boundaries that reduce the ability of the health workforce to respond to population needs, or workforce flexibility.Accessible health services require sufficient numbers and types of skilled workers to meet population needs. However, there are several reasons that the health workforce cannot or does not meet population needs. These primarily stem from workforce shortages. However, the health workforce can also be prevented from responding appropriately and efficiently because of restrictions imposed by professional boundaries, funding models or therapeutic partitions. These boundaries limit the ability of practitioners to effectively diagnose and treat patients by restricting access to specific skills, technologies and services. In some cases, these boundaries not only reduce workforce flexibility, but they introduce inefficiencies in the form of additional clinical transactions and costs, further detracting from workforce responsiveness.Several new models of care are being developed to enhance workforce flexibility by enabling existing staff to work to their full scope of practice, extend their roles or by introducing new workers. Expanding on these concepts, this theoretical paper proposes six principles that have the potential to enhance health workforce flexibility, specifically:1. Measure health system performance from the perspective of the patient.2. Minimise training times.3. Regulate tasks (competencies), not professions.4. Match rewards and indemnity to the levels of skill and risk required to perform a particular task, not professional title.5. Ensure that practitioners have all the skills they need to perform the tasks required to work in the environment in which they work6. Enable practitioners to work to their full scope of practice delegate tasks where requiredThese proposed principles will challenge some of the existing social norms around health-care delivery; however, many of these principles are already being applied, albeit on a small scale. This paper discusses the implications of these reforms.Proposed discussion points1. Is person-centred care at odds with professional monopolies?2. Should the state regulate professions and, by doing so, protect professional monopolies or, instead, regulate tasks or competencies?3. Can health-care efficiency be enhanced by reducing the number of clinical transactions required to meet patient needs?

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      Effects of pay for performance on the quality of primary care in England.

      A pay-for-performance scheme based on meeting targets for the quality of clinical care was introduced to family practice in England in 2004. We conducted an interrupted time-series analysis of the quality of care in 42 representative family practices, with data collected at two time points before implementation of the scheme (1998 and 2003) and at two time points after implementation (2005 and 2007). At each time point, data on the care of patients with asthma, diabetes, or coronary heart disease were extracted from medical records; data on patients' perceptions of access to care, continuity of care, and interpersonal aspects of care were collected from questionnaires. The analysis included aspects of care that were and those that were not associated with incentives. Between 2003 and 2005, the rate of improvement in the quality of care increased for asthma and diabetes (P<0.001) but not for heart disease. By 2007, the rate of improvement had slowed for all three conditions (P<0.001), and the quality of those aspects of care that were not associated with an incentive had declined for patients with asthma or heart disease. As compared with the period before the pay-for-performance scheme was introduced, the improvement rate after 2005 was unchanged for asthma or diabetes and was reduced for heart disease (P=0.02). No significant changes were seen in patients' reports on access to care or on interpersonal aspects of care. The level of the continuity of care, which had been constant, showed a reduction immediately after the introduction of the pay-for-performance scheme (P<0.001) and then continued at that reduced level. Against a background of increases in the quality of care before the pay-for-performance scheme was introduced, the scheme accelerated improvements in quality for two of three chronic conditions in the short term. However, once targets were reached, the improvement in the quality of care for patients with these conditions slowed, and the quality of care declined for two conditions that had not been linked to incentives. Continuity of care was reduced after the introduction of the scheme. 2009 Massachusetts Medical Society
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        Health workforce skill mix and task shifting in low income countries: a review of recent evidence

        Background Health workforce needs-based shortages and skill mix imbalances are significant health workforce challenges. Task shifting, defined as delegating tasks to existing or new cadres with either less training or narrowly tailored training, is a potential strategy to address these challenges. This study uses an economics perspective to review the skill mix literature to determine its strength of the evidence, identify gaps in the evidence, and to propose a research agenda. Methods Studies primarily from low-income countries published between 2006 and September 2010 were found using Google Scholar and PubMed. Keywords included terms such as skill mix, task shifting, assistant medical officer, assistant clinical officer, assistant nurse, assistant pharmacist, and community health worker. Thirty-one studies were selected to analyze, based on the strength of evidence. Results First, the studies provide substantial evidence that task shifting is an important policy option to help alleviate workforce shortages and skill mix imbalances. For example, in Mozambique, surgically trained assistant medical officers, who were the key providers in district hospitals, produced similar patient outcomes at a significantly lower cost as compared to physician obstetricians and gynaecologists. Second, although task shifting is promising, it can present its own challenges. For example, a study analyzing task shifting in HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa noted quality and safety concerns, professional and institutional resistance, and the need to sustain motivation and performance. Third, most task shifting studies compare the results of the new cadre with the traditional cadre. Studies also need to compare the new cadre's results to the results from the care that would have been provided--if any care at all--had task shifting not occurred. Conclusions Task shifting is a promising policy option to increase the productive efficiency of the delivery of health care services, increasing the number of services provided at a given quality and cost. Future studies should examine the development of new professional cadres that evolve with technology and country-specific labour markets. To strengthen the evidence, skill mix changes need to be evaluated with a rigorous research design to estimate the effect on patient health outcomes, quality of care, and costs.
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          Systematic review of whether nurse practitioners working in primary care can provide equivalent care to doctors.

          To determine whether nurse practitioners can provide care at first point of contact equivalent to doctors in a primary care setting. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials and prospective observational studies. Cochrane controlled trials register, specialist register of trials maintained by Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, science citation index, database of abstracts of reviews of effectiveness, national research register, hand searches, and published bibliographies. Randomised controlled trials and prospective observational studies comparing nurse practitioners and doctors providing care at first point of contact for patients with undifferentiated health problems in a primary care setting and providing data on one or more of the following outcomes: patient satisfaction, health status, costs, and process of care. 11 trials and 23 observational studies met all the inclusion criteria. Patients were more satisfied with care by a nurse practitioner (standardised mean difference 0.27, 95% confidence interval 0.07 to 0.47). No differences in health status were found. Nurse practitioners had longer consultations (weighted mean difference 3.67 minutes, 2.05 to 5.29) and made more investigations (odds ratio 1.22, 1.02 to 1.46) than did doctors. No differences were found in prescriptions, return consultations, or referrals. Quality of care was in some ways better for nurse practitioner consultations. Increasing availability of nurse practitioners in primary care is likely to lead to high levels of patient satisfaction and high quality care.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, East Lismore, NSW 2480 Australia
            Contributors
            susan.nancarrow@scu.edu.au
            Journal
            Hum Resour Health
            Hum Resour Health
            Human Resources for Health
            BioMed Central (London )
            1478-4491
            7 April 2015
            7 April 2015
            2015
            : 13
            4532254
            481
            10.1186/1478-4491-13-9
            © Nancarrow; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

            This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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