Last fall, CHI released a report about the demand for primary care health professionals if more than 500,000 more Coloradans are insured in 2016 (with implementation of national health reform). We found that the newly insured would generate 256,000 to 432,000 new visits, which would require an additional 83 to 141 full time primary care providers in the state. People were interested to know the numbers but weren’t sure how to interpret them, since data about the health care workforce in Colorado are few and far between.
The idea behind HB 12-1052, sponsored by Rep. Ken Summers (R), Sen. Betty Boyd (D) and Sen. Ellen Roberts (R), is to collect data through the licensure process to create a more robust data source for the health care workforce in Colorado. The bill, titled “Concerning the Collection of Health Care Workforce Data from Health Care Professionals,” requires the Department of Regulatory Agencies Division of Registrations to implement a data collection process that allows health professionals to provide data about practice location, number of hours worked, any specialties, setting type, education and training and age. The system will collect these data from health care professionals who are eligible for the Colorado Health Service Corps, from practical and professional nurses, and from pharmacists. An advisory group will be formed to work with the Primary Care Office in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to recommend the appropriate tool and questions.
The health care workforce community has led the charge for this legislation, arguing that the data would help inform planning for future health care workforce issues and would help to evaluate these activities. The provider community hopes to understand what the current picture looks like, such as the age of the providers, whether they currently practice, their specialty and where they work. Currently, the data landscape for the health workforce relies heavily on voluntary surveys, which are expensive and infrequent. The new data collection system would increase the amount of data collected and make it easier for professionals to submit their information.
Since 1979, the Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina has collected demographic and practice characteristics of that state’s health workforce. North Carolina is one of a few states to have this type of data system and provides an excellent example of what can be done with these types of data. Research and policy implications are a top priority.
Some concerns about collecting the new data include provider privacy, and the increased burden on DORA’s existing licensure system. But many in the provider community believe it would be a step in the right direction. The bill passed both houses, was amended in Senate, and is waiting for a vote in the House to approve Senate amendments.