Host: So Van, Futuro Health is pretty new. Why don’t you tell us how it got started and what it’s all about?
Van Ton-Quinlivan: Futuro Health was launched in January of 2020 through a $130 million-dollar commitment between Kaiser Permanente and SEIU United Healthcare Workers West- UHW. This is a very exciting model for how employers and organizations can co-invest in creating a workforce where there’s labor market demand and there’s candidates that want to pursue these credentials but have too many frictions in their way.
The most important thing is that we are creating opportunity and that we open the door to opportunity to facilitate social and economic mobility. This is why the mission of Futuro Health is about building the health and wealth of communities. So, setting up education models, lowering the frictions of adults being able to attain their credential — the first and subsequent credentials — this is what excites us about the work that we’re doing today.
Host: And what’s your primary objective? What’s your goal here?
Van Ton-Quinlivan: Building the health and wealth of communities by creating the largest network of allied health workers in the nation, starting in California. When I share that, most people ask the question, well, what is allied health? Let me invite you to think for a moment if, for example, you were to get into a car accident. Imagine all the professionals who would be touching you from that point — from the emergency medical technician that arrives in the ambulance to the person at the front desk who checks you in at the hospital to all those individuals who take your vitals and work on admitting you and assessing you before you meet with the doctor — those are all allied health professionals and they’re mostly trained through credentials that are more than a high school degree, but less than a baccalaureate degree.
Host: You know, I think we’ve probably all heard that there’s a big shortage of healthcare workers in the United States. But specifically, what is the demand that you’re trying to meet and the gap that you’re trying to fill with Futuro Health?
Van Ton-Quinlivan: Let me just give you California’s example alone. You know, California is growing and it is graying. And so those two factors have contributed to a gap of 500,000 allied health workers needed in California over the next five years alone. Now, that number is much bigger, in the millions, when it comes to the nation. The numbers are so big that it’s not one organization or one education institution that can solve this workforce Rx pipeline problem on its own. And so Futuro Health is doing the work to curate all the necessary partners to come together in an ecosystem so that we can mix and match the education as well as the support services that are needed by a student. And in this case, we’re focused on adults who are wanting to earn their first credential or the next credential in health care in order to grow this population of allied health workers.
Host: So, give us an example of one of the professions in that allied health category that you folks are focused on and what it looks like in terms of the help you’re providing to people who are interested in pursuing that line of work…
Van Ton-Quinlivan: In 2020, for example, one of our programs is focused on the medical assistant occupation. So, we’ve looked at the labor market need, talked to employers and they definitely said the medical assistant is a good entry-level field if you want to break into the health care area. So, what we’ve done is we’ve now looked across the geographies and identified six higher education institutions who are going to be working with us. They’re accredited institutions.
And we then take advantage of partners like SEIU, United Healthcare Workers. They have 1000,000 members who all work in hospitals across the state, and they’re going out to scout and recruit candidates to refer them into this program, because no better than an actual health care professional to be able to identify others who may be a fit for these careers. What we do is then look at their application. And if they have already taken medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, we pathway them straight into a medical assistant program, which is roughly about an 11-month program and Futuro Health is underwriting their tuition. So it’s tuition free for these individuals this year and we’re underwriting a thousand individuals through the medical assistant program in 2020.
If they haven’t taken these two courses, we put them into “jump start courses”. Then if an individual is not feeling confident about their English, we begin them at a different place, which is working with a partner that has created English readiness for allied health, starting with Spanish speakers. So they can start there as the on-ramp into education. So our work is to design the education pathway, to scout and recruit candidates, and then move them into education in the most expedient way possible and then support them with student supports as needed, especially by adults.
Host: Right. So this is obviously a time of enormous disruption and change in higher education and I’m wondering what you see in the bigger picture that’s shifting in the higher education landscape and how your work now is fitting into that?
Van Ton-Quinlivan: At this moment in time, we’re seeing the unbundling and rebundling of education. You know, higher education hasn’t really been set up to be ideal for the adult learner who has a lot of obligations in life and on their time. They worry about how they will finance the debt of education. So these are all frictions in the way of them not only getting their — I call it the inoculation, the upfront inoculation of education — but also booster shots that are required along the way in order to keep your skills fresh and relevant to the labor market.
So our work is really how do you lower all those points of frictions that are in the way, especially for adults, whether it’s cost, whether it’s knowing which programs to go through, whether it’s student supports. And if you think about Lego sets, we plug and play different elements of the education process in order to help support adult learners through their journey. And so streamlining this process is going to be really important because higher education has really been set up for the traditional student, you know, with the model where the student stays at home and doesn’t have as much obligations in their life. And so when we see this moment in time and really the unbundling of higher education in all its pieces and parts, let’s try to rebuild a higher education process that is much more supportive of how adults need to move through that journey towards their first credential, but also additional credentials in later life.
Host: Van, I want to thank you for spending a few minutes with us today to fill folks in on the innovative work being done by Futuro Health in partnership with Kaiser Permanente and SEIU United Healthcare Workers West. For more information, you can visit www.FuturoHealth.org