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Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce
As a result, many members of the health care workforce will need to be trained in the proper use of all of these technologies.
Technologies that assist in performing activities of daily living may reduce the demands placed on direct-care workers and informal caregivers, effectively shifting these responsibilities back to the patient’s level. The interaction between developing technologies and the health care workforce is discussed further in later chapters, and recommendations are offered for encouraging the development and use of health technologies.
Simply expanding the size of the workforce qualified to provide the needed health care services to older adults will not be sufficient to address the challenge that will face this country over the next two decades. It will be necessary to develop new models of financing and care delivery in order to promote greater efficiencies in the use of the existing workforce while at the same time promoting improvements in care quality. Although a number of innovative models have already been developed, few have been widely adopted, and in large part this is because no adequate financing mechanism is in place to encourage the promotion of these models. Given that no single model of care will be sufficient to meet the needs of all older adults in all settings of care across the health care continuum, the committee recommends both an improved dissemination of models that have been shown to be effective and the development of new models of care that address specific settings or populations that have largely been overlooked and that encourage more effective use of the health care workforce.
The adaptation of these new models of care will have important implications for the development of a better health care workforce for older adults. Common features of new models include expanding the roles of workers (including expansion of the involvement of patients and their families), creating new provider roles, using interdisciplinary care teams, and improving the coordination of care through improvements in communication. Today’s health care workforce is not properly prepared to perform its work in the ways that these new models demand, so all segments of the health care workforce will need to be educated and trained in the new care principles that underlie these models. The remainder of this report discusses the education, training, recruitment, and retention of the various segments of the health care workforce, with a particular emphasis on how the roles of health care providers will need to change in order to provide high-quality and cost-effective care to older Americans.