PORTLAND, Oregon - The future of healthcare is changing, and Portland Community College is aiming to change with it.
The creation of President Obama's American Health Care Act was due in great part to skyrocketing healthcare costs, an uptick in the number of patients suffering chronic illness, as well as those who push off seeking medical attention until symptoms become critical -- and expensive to treat. The system itself has exhibited signs of sickness, too: Medical error is one of the leading causes of death, courtesy of a healthcare system where a physician, carrying too heavy a patient load, relies on a multitude of staff to give care, but who don't know how to seamlessly work with one another. Key shifts in the way the system operates were needed, and implementation of the healthcare act has mandated such change.
"The big topic of conversation lately is was what needs to happen now?" said Jen Piper, interim dean of Instruction at the Southeast Campus and one of the leaders of the college's health inter professional initiative. "What is the vision of what healthcare looks like in future? The American Health Care Act and the World Health Organization, shifted the focus on a team-based patient care model."
According to Piper, this team-based care model -- also called "collaborative practice" -- is what the healthcare industry considers to be the solution. Rather than relying on a single doctor to determine the course of care for a patient, a number of professionals talk to one another as a team to reduce the likelihood of medical errors.
Rather than the traditional hierarchy care model, the hierarchy flattens and the various healthcare providers communicate as a team to provide patient care.
And with that shift, Piper added, "We'll need to change the way we are teaching so that students can learn to work together in a reconfigured healthcare environment."
PCC, the largest provider of trained professionals to the local healthcare industry, wants to do just that. By way of PCC's 2017 bond measure on the November ballot, it could. Roughly $3 million is earmarked for the development of space dedicated to health inter professional training. This project would create or redesign space to be used for collaborative training, offering students working with PCC's Allied Health programs and major healthcare partners a better place to learn.
"It is a challenge for our students to get the training they need at the clinical sites because of all the competition," said Linda Degman, PCC's Bond Program director. "We have a lot of health programs that don't talk to one another, but when our graduates go out into the medical field setting, they do work together yet don't know how. When we talk to the healthcare organizations we work with, they tell us they really want more of those kinds of soft skills -- where their people understand how to work more closely together."
PCC spends $7.5 million a year training the region's health professional students at 60 clinical sites around the area. The programs supply local industry with 1,000 well-trained graduates a year. Employers understand that PCC is at the epicenter of future training for their needs, and as the college prepares for the shift to collaborative practice, it has sought feedback from health industry leaders so that together, they can begin to align priorities. Such input has led to PCC teaming with OHSU, PSU and others to review and discuss curriculum and academic requirements involved in the educational pathways for these careers.
Such visioning also supports PCC's decision to join the Innovation Quadrant, a collaboration of public and private sectors near OMSI and the South Waterfront campus of OHSU. Educational entities involved in healthcare are participating, helping to develop both sides of the Willamette River. OMSI is pledging to repurpose two existing industrial buildings (former power generation facilities) on its property to serve as incubators and labs for healthcare startups. PCC, meanwhile, seeks to develop space to foster innovation within training and patient care.
PCC's bond would help accomplish this goal. The new simulation space would support the college's acute care programs like nursing, medical assisting, paramedics, EMT, medical imaging, CNA, medical assisting, phlebotomy, pharmacy technology, and health and information management, as well as interested educational partners. And it would build on existing health-related partnerships PCC has forged, similar to the Dental Programs' 2020 move to the new $100 million education and health center in downtown Portland, in a shared facility alongside the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, PSU's Graduate School of Education, and a City of Portland bureau.
"We have more patients in the healthcare system today than ever before, yet it's doing the bare minimum to address the sickness of the system," Piper said. "We need to shift to a healthcare preventive system with a team-based approach. This simulation space would enable PCC to work toward this goal, and it's one I anticipate we'll build on in the future."
About Portland Community College: Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon and provides training, degree and certificate completion, and lifelong learning to more than 75,000 full- and part-time students in Multnomah, Washington, Yamhill, Clackamas, and Columbia counties. The PCC bond measure of $185 million would improve workforce training programs to better align with current and future jobs, invest in training for Health and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs, and upgrade safety, security, longevity and disability access. If passed, it is estimated to maintain the tax rate of 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for the next 16 years.