Highlight on Minnesota: Will Emerging Professionals Improve Access to Care?

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) are adding emerging professionals to five health care teams in the state in an effort to increase access to health care and reduce costs.  The departments are awarding $30,000 each to five entities to hire one professional each.  The funding was made possible by a State Innovation Model (SIM) Testing grant awarded to the state by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in 2013.  Five other states–Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Oregon, and Arkansas–received SIM Testing grants.  However, at $45 million, Minnesota received the largest award.  The departments are using the SIM funds to support the state’s Accountable Health Model, which encourages providers and communities to work together to improve health care. SIM funds account for 35 percent of the $425,000 emerging professionals project. The remaining funding will come from non-governmental sources.

Emerging Professionals

The departments believe that certain emerging types of care providers, due to their skills and relationship with the community, have the potential to increase access to care for underserved populations and fill in gaps in primary and dental care. They awarded grants to five entities, allowing each organization to hire an emerging professional and integrate him or her into the entity’s existing health care team. Over time, the departments will evaluate whether the integration increases the team’s capacity to provide care and improves patient outcomes. MDH and DHS hope, for example, that the addition of a community paramedic to a hospital system will prevent hospital readmissions because the community paramedic will provide follow-up care after initial discharge. Community paramedics, who are advanced paramedics, can provide other services, including medication management and the performance of health assessments and minor medical procedures. Their services could potentially decrease emergency room visits and costs, while increasing access to care.

The program also awarded funding to two entities to hire community health workers.  Community health workers belong to or have a deep understanding of a community that allows them to serve as a liaison between health care and social service providers and the community. In addition to educating the community and promoting health, the departments hope that the community health workers can improve care of the chronically ill, improve access to care for racial and ethnic minorities, and otherwise increase cultural competence.

Advanced dental therapists (ADTs) are emerging professionals who have advanced training and clinical practice experience and are certified by the Board of Dentistry. Minnesota is the first state to authorize licensing for Dental Therapists (DTs) and certification for ADTs.  In addition to performing the duties of a DT, which involve evaluative, preventive, and restorative care, ADTs may, under the supervision of a dentist, formulate treatment plans and non-surgically extract diseased teeth. Dentists need not be on site to supervise the ADT, nor must they see the patient before the ADT provides care. The departments hope that adding ADTs to two entities will allow dentists to spend time on complicated procedures, such as root canals, while allowing other patients to access more routine care through the emerging professionals.

Specific Awards

The following entities received $30,000 awards to hire one emerging professional each:

  • Children’s Dental Services Minneapolis (Advanced Dental Therapist)
  • HealthEast Care System, St. Paul (Community Paramedic)
  • Minnesota Visiting Nurse Association, Minneapolis (Community Health Worker)
  • Well Being Development, Ely (Community Health Worker)
  • West Side Community, St. Paul (Advanced Dental Therapist)