The frontline workforce in community health centers consists of poorly-paid Medical Assistants in “dead-end” jobs who lack the skill sets and technological literacy to effectively support patients.  Turnover is chronic among these workers.  The CTWP is designed to provide these Medical Assistants (MAs) with new skills, upward mobility and income growth, while improving patient care quality and creating job openings as the MAs climb a new career ladder.  Up-skilling MAs to take on expanded roles can measurably improve access to health and quality and reduce health care costs by both moderating hospital readmissions and more cost-effectively supporting patient self-management.

The CTWP initially partners with Norwalk Community College to design and deliver classroom training enabling MAs to grow via new career pathways into higher-skilled, less repetitive roles.  By providing academic training that certifies frontline healthcare workers as Health Coaches, Norwalk Community College will supplement the work-based training the MAs will receive in a care team environment at two test site clinics operated by CTWP partner Optimus Health Care in Bridgeport, CT.   The CT Health Foundation provided a $100,000 to fund this test and catalyze statewide replication of the pilot.

Enabling Individuals to Train and Advance Their Careers in Community Health

The CTWP is a skill/career development program that enables low-income medical workers to advance into new roles as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates a surge of new patients and puts pressure on a physician-centered health system. Its combination of work-based and academic training to upgrade the frontline workforce in community health centers will pioneer a revolution in health care delivery by more cost-effectively motivating and supporting patient self-management. The CTWP empowers MAs to assume newly-created and “Health Coach” roles at lower cost than would be incurred for Registered Nurses. By applying updated mobile technology to monitor, coordinate and manage care, the CTWP also increases patients’ ability to self-manage chronic diabetes and cardiovascular conditions and thereby minimizes the frequency of costly hospital re-admissions.

The ACA is transitioning health care providers like Optimus to more efficient, team-based, patient-centered models of care. But providers like Optimus will struggle to transform their practices toward these models – and away from reliance on physicians and nurses – unless they can leverage the potential of their frontline workers. The CTWP will help Optimus retain their MAs and motivate them to become Health Coaches.

The CTWP’s work-based and academic training is designed to give MAs the capacity to coordinate care and facilitate communication within care teams, navigate primary care and specialist visits for patients, and coach patients to increase compliance with their care plans. By integrating advanced mobile technologies into the care team model, community health centers can increase the capacity of their patients to manage themselves at home.

Leveraging Appleseed’s Relationships

On completion of Optimus’ Bridgeport pilot, we plan to replicate the CTWP at a second safety-net provider and community college in the New Haven area. Optimus CEO Lud Spinelli will personally help recruit other community health systems in both New Haven and elsewhere in the state. Similarly, we will use the curriculum developed by Norwalk Community College for statewide expansion of the academic portion of our community health career ladder education program. Norwalk Community College President David Levinson has been involved in planning the CTWP’s statewide expansion and will personally offer to extend the pilot to his peer at Gateway Community College and beyond. And Appleseed will of course leverage our Board members’ relationships with state officials to seek broader state support for the CTWP.