Formed in 1997 by leaders of several of the nation’s top academic health centers (AHCs), the Blue Ridge Academic Health Group (BRAHG) studies and reports on issues of fundamental importance to improving the health care system, with special focus on the role of AHCs.  

The Blue Ridge Academic Health Group Spring 2024 report sets out innovations that health centers can undertake to address the ongoing health care workforce crisis.

A new report from the group sets out innovations that health centers can undertake to address the ongoing health care workforce crisis.  

The health care industry has been grappling with significant staffing shortages for years, a problem that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, “there simply are not enough health care professionals to keep the nation’s health care system operating.”  

The authors examine the crisis and its long-term implications, emphasizing the unique opportunities academic health centers have in addressing the issue. The report calls for collaboration among health care delivery organizations, educational institutions, professional and advocacy organizations, and policymakers. 

“Given their mission to drive research and training, AHCs as centers of innovation can and will play a leading role in exploring and developing solutions to the staffing crisis,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and co-chair of the June 2023 meeting where BRAHG members began work on the report. “There is an urgent need to address the workforce shortage from two directions: increasing the pipeline to better meet staffing demands going forward, and introducing innovative solutions that can reduce the total workforce needed.”  

Co-chairing the meeting with Balser was Jonathan Lewin, MD, professor at Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta. 

While acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead, the report outlines a number of promising solutions already in various stages of development by AHCs. 

  • Centers are: implementing new care delivery models that optimize skill mix; reducing demand for high-acuity services by expanding primary care; shifting patients to less costly alternative sites like urgent care, retail clinics, and hospital-at-home programs.
  • AHCs are partnering with their affiliated universities and with community colleges to expand education and training programs.
  • Centers are leveraging information technology, including artificial intelligence, to enhance hospital operations, diagnostics, and decision support.
  • AHCs are improving retention through better compensation, recognition, and workplace culture.
  • AHCs need to join with other health care delivery organizations, educational institutions, and professional and advocacy organizations to share ideas, establish clearer regulations, and invest in workforce development.
  • AHCs will increasingly need to work with policymakers to establish clearer rules and standards around staffing models and license permissions and expand workforce and graduate medical education funding.

To read the report, visit the group’s website. 

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