Community health centers are key to providing primary care for the millions of newly insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act. But the nation's 1,300 centers, which serve 25 million Americans, struggle to recruit and retain enough physicians, dentists, nurses and other providers.
How to attract and best utilize this workforce will be the central theme of the National Association of Community Health Centers' annual conference Aug. 28-30 in Chicago.
Speakers such as Dr. Karen DeSalvo, HHS' acting assistant secretary of health, will discuss how innovative care models such as patient-centered medical homes will drive which types of healthcare professionals are most needed to serve the clinics' low-income patients.
Clinic leaders are thrilled by Hillary Clinton's proposal to double funding for CHCs to $40 billion over 10 years and to nearly triple funding for the National Health Service Corps, which financially supports young medical professionals working in underserved communities. But Patricia Deitch, CEO of Delaware Valley Community Health in Philadelphia, said CHCs must raise salaries if they hope to attract more primary-care physicians.
With plans to double the number of patients they serve within the next 10 years, CHCs may need to double their total number of clinicians to about 44,000. Dr. Ron Yee, the association's medical director, said new value-based payment models may prompt centers to hire a different mix of people. “It might be that community health workers who can get patients to the hospital and make sure they take their meds make a bigger difference.”