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Here’s How to Improve Data on the Direct Care Workforce

By Robert Espinoza | May 3, 2021

The Biden-Harris administration is exciting news for direct care workers and the long-term care field.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced, direct care workers are essential to the health and survival of millions of older adults and people with disabilities. Yet the poor quality of direct care jobs—as evidenced by low compensation, inadequate training, limited career paths, and much more—harms workers’ financial security, hinders quality care, and drives many workers out of this sector, a costly and unsustainable trend.

How should President Biden transform the direct care workforce?

Our new report—Caring for the Future: The Power and Potential of America’s Direct Care Workforce—provides a blueprint for this transformation. This report offers a comprehensive, current-day analysis of the direct care workforce and its critical role in the long-term care system. It also provides an extensive list of recommendations across eight key areas, all of which present federal policy opportunities, as well as options for state and local officials. This article, the fifth in an eight-part series, describes a few critical ideas for improving direct care workforce data collection and monitoring.

Now is the time for federal leaders to strengthen direct care jobs—and here’s one place to start.

DATA COLLECTION & MONITORING

To better understand direct care workforce capacity and develop tailored solutions to pressing workforce challenges

  • Create robust workforce data collection systems. While workforce shortages are widely reported in the field, their scope, severity, and root causes are not fully understood. New data collection systems should be established to regularly measure workforce size, stability, credentials, and compensation. These data would help policymakers strengthen the direct care workforce—notably by quantifying workforce needs and evaluating the impact of policies and programs on workforce supply and job quality.
  • Update federal industry and occupational classification codes to understand the direct care workforce more fully. Existing public data on direct care workers combine diverse industries and occupations, obscuring critical differences within the workforce and limiting employment projections and other calculations. For example, the current industry classification “Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities” elides non-medical home care providers, adult day care centers, and other dissimilar services. Also, direct support professionals who care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are combined with other direct care workers, which creates significant gaps in knowledge about this critical workforce, and independent providers employed directly by consumers are also difficult to quantify. Federal leaders should re-assess how best to code data on this sector to allow for more precise analysis of long-term care occupations and industries.
  • Strengthen and integrate direct care workforce quality measures into research, practice, and policy. High-quality jobs in direct care—along with strong relationships between direct care workers and consumers—are essential to care quality. Federal and state policymakers should integrate direct care job quality measures into the laws, policies, and payment mechanisms that shape long-term care, to ensure that job quality is prioritized and evaluated over time.

 * The recommendations above are taken from Caring for the Future: The Power and Potential of America’s Direct Care Workforce.

Read the executive summary of Caring for the Future >>

Download The 5 Pillars of Direct Care Job Quality >>

Robert Espinoza
About The Author

Robert Espinoza

Vice President of Policy
Robert Espinoza oversees PHI's national policy, research, and communications division. He has been a national policy expert, communications strategist, and writer for 20 years.
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Caring for the Future

Our new policy report takes an extensive look at today's direct care workforce—in five installments.

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From wages to employment statistics, find the latest data on the direct care workforce.