Twenty years ago, a group of entrepreneurial and forward thinking leaders came together to plan new ways to increase the recruitment and retention of primary care providers in rural North Carolina. In 1989, the vision, wisdom and passion of two leaders, Dr. Harvey Estes and Jim Bernstein, and the contributions of key state organizations paved the way for the birth of the Community Practitioner Program. The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust provided the generous financial support of $4.5 million to make the program a reality, helping medically underserved communities across North Carolina attract and retain needed medical practitioners. In 2005, The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation provided additional support to the Community Practitioner Program through a five-year $10M grant. While the program receives no state or federal funds, the Foundation does receive donations from physicians and other healthcare providers to do this work along with other partners.
Measuring Recruitment and Retention Efforts
In 1991 as part of a grant from the Robert Wood Foundation’s Practice Sights initiative, the NC Foundation for Advanced Health Programs and the NC Office of Rural Health (NCORH) created and implemented Practice Sights Medical Provider Placement Software for the purposes of tracking medical practitioners being recruited to North Carolina and other states participating in the Practice Sites initiative. The recruitment program has continued to evolve and improve with time. In 2008, rather than tracking CPP separately, the Office of Rural Health invited the program to use the Practice Sights software thus enabling the NCMSF and NCORH to avoid funding and systems duplications and allowed both to more closely track applicants. Practice Sights also enables the Community Practitioner Program to more strategically make decisions regarding funding.
Over the years, the CPP has always assisted medical practitioners in a variety of ways and attempted to identify the most critical issues affecting medical practice. The issues important to practice management have grown to include the ability to measure practice quality and the implementation of an electronic health record. Through the PractEssentials practice management program we at the CPP have been able to assist practices with very few resources as they take strides to meet new requirements placed on practices and adopt new technology. These activities have become a central part of the CPP’s work and strategy to retain participants in their communities and practices. It is incumbent on the Program to provide participants with the tools of success and to lend a hand whenever needed and to measure outcomes of the Program’s efforts. In this way, it will truly be possible to describe the impact of the CPP’s work in the lives of the people of rural North Carolina.