Valley Medical Group wins workforce training grant

Recorder Staff
Sunday, October 08, 2017

GREENFIELD — What’s the cost of training a staff of about 430 employees in the evolving health care world?

Well, the state has awarded Valley Medical Group $242,850, a slice of the $11.9 million Workforce Training Fund Program grant.

The money over the next two years will help to train the medical practice’s staff, including its roughly 200 employees based in Greenfield. The training will primarily assist those in management and in staff positions, although physicians will undergo some training, too.

The nearly quarter-million dollars will pay for the training to improve their “skills and marketability,” said Valley Medical’s Greg Folta, who oversaw the grant.

Folta, the vice president of finance and business operations, said Valley Medical hopes to begin moving preparations forward within the next month, with the actual training beginning in January.

The grant is meant to address many of the new and developing aspects related to the health care business, like how to make sure you’re satisfying the wants of insurance groups so that the practice can get fully paid for its work.

“The reimbursement for physicians continues to go down and down and we continue to have to do more and more, so unfortunately we’re not in a place to continually hire staff to do the things that are additionally required of us,” Folta said.

This includes everyone from those at the front desk to the physicians in the back who have burgeoning responsibilities.

“You’re asking them to do more and more and different tasks than they used to be doing,” Folta said. “So it has become very difficult for our staff.”

For instance, Folta explained, an insurance company may not fully reimburse a practice if a patient, who is recommended to get two blood tests annually to check up on their diabetes does not. Ultimately, tasks like these are the responsibilities of individual patients, but if the patient doesn’t get the outside work done, then the practice doesn’t get its full reimbursement.

Unfortunately, Folta said. insurance providers “will penalize us if we don’t meet these indicators.”

So it has become the task of people working both out front and in back to remind the patients about certain follow-ups, sometimes outside the work done within the practice itself.

“Our receptionist no longer just checks in a patient and collects a copay,” Folta said.

While employees have taken on additional small jobs in recent years, it has led to a more time-crunched day for staff, Folta said. The grant will also go toward helping employees with their time management and stress management skills, in addition to teaching them how to work more efficiently on new workplace technology.

As for the practice’s patients, Folta hopes that this training over the next two years will lead to an improved experience with Valley Medical and, of course, better care.

“We want to retain our staff and be able to increase their skill levels to help improve the patient care and the patient customer service,” Folta said.