This spring, our Student Hotspotting program is recruiting its sixth cohort of interprofessional student teams to be trained in complex care techniques over six months. With a combination of hands-on patient engagement, an online curriculum, and regular case conferencing and round-table events with complex care experts, students learn to build authentic healing relationships and interact with patients in a holistic way.

The idea for Student Hotspotting was born In 2013. Leaders of the fledgling complex care movement saw an opportunity: while it might be difficult for clinicians working in siloed systems to transform their practice, teaching interprofessional, person-centered care approaches early in training would create a generation of providers ready to apply those skills throughout their careers.

In 2014, the Interprofessional Student Hotspotting Learning Collaborative was launched by the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Primary Care Progress, and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to teach health professional students how to identify patients with complex health and social needs and to deliver person-centered, team-based care based on patients’ own goals.

As the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs has emerged as the professional home for the field of complex care, the Student Hotspotting program remains a key tool in ensuring that students in diverse fields across the country get hands-on training in complex care. We’ve engaged additional partners to help us do this: the National Academies of Practice, the Council on Social Work Education, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, and AARP, to ensure that the program is truly interprofessional in nature.

A focus on team-based care

Team-based care is one of the core tenets of complex care, as laid out in our recently published Blueprint for Complex Care. Complex care teams are interprofessional, non-traditional, and inclusive, and include the patient themselves along with medical, behavioral health, and social services providers.

As team-based training for healthcare professionals gains momentum across the country, our Student Hotspotting program provides a teaming model that places the patient at the center.

“It was certainly confidence boosting to be able to be with a patient, not just once but over time, and to see that actual progress was being made,” said a 2017 Student Hotspotting participant in a post-program focus group. “Our efforts were actually doing something, and it wasn’t for nothing. Being part of an interdisciplinary team can be so beneficial and alleviate so much other stress because it’s not all on you; you have other people to turn to.”

“We’re taught within silos, but healthcare can’t be a silo because the patient needs so much more than what each little pocket can provide,” said another.

Student Hotspotting hubs

In 2017, we shifted the delivery of the program to a decentralized hub-and-spokes model as a way to support emerging complex care ecosystems across the country. The four hotspotting hub institutions, Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA; University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT; Southern Illinois University in Springfield, IL; and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA, were selected to deliver the program and support Student Hotspotting teams both within and outside their institutions. They were also selected because of their enthusiasm for and track record in advancing the field of complex care in their own communities.

“We wanted this program to grow and impact as many people as possible,” said Hanna Pedersen, program assistant for the National Center. “Our goal was to partner with experts who could support us in operationalizing and scaling the program within an academic environment.”

While the Student Hotspotting curriculum remains standardized across the hubs, monthly case conferences now feature complex care experts recruited from the hubs’ local communities. These experts range from community health workers to police officers, and with training from the Camden Coalition, they are helping to build expertise within their communities and providing students with diverse complex care perspectives.

The hub and spokes model provides the National Center with a mechanism for expanding its reach, and it also gives each hub institution space for innovation.

For example, Thomas Jefferson University has now integrated the Student Hotspotting program into its well-established Center for Interprofessional Practice & Education and gives participating students a special transcript designation of Excellence in Collaborative Practice.

Southern Illinois University has focused both on bringing complex care to rural areas and on workforce development, building a pipeline for Student Hotspotting alumni to bring their unique lens to their health system.

Samuel Merritt University has integrated its student teams into Sutter Health’s pilot complex care clinic in Oakland, and has also launched a new university-wide “passport model,” which will require all all SMU students to gain interprofessional experiences before they graduate.

The University of Utah Health Interprofessional Education Program has deployed hotspotting teams among diverse patient populations—including refugees, older adults, and previously homeless patients—and worked with six professional schools to give students course credit for participating in the program.

“Student Hotspotting is now part of the culture of our institution, impacting patients’ lives and students’ career trajectories in a positive way,” said Timothy Farrell, director of University of Utah’s Health Interprofessional Education Program and member of the National Center Advisory Committee. “The excitement about this program is palpable—we receive regular inquiries from clinicians asking if their patients can be assigned to our Student Hotspotting teams.”

The Future of Student Hotspotting

As we head into year three of the hub and spokes model, the hubs are taking on more responsibility for the operation of the program. We are excited to see the Student Hotspotting model take deeper hold in academic institutions across the country, and even spread to their surrounding communities. The National Center will continue to provide leadership, training, alignment, and partnership for the program. We know that we can’t build a field without an eye toward equipping the next generation of complex care leaders with the skills needed to deliver the best care.  

Applications are now open for the 2019-2020 Student Hotspotting cohort. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2019, and the program will run from September 2019 through March 2020. Students from any discipline who want hands-on experience in interprofessional, person-centered care should form an interprofessional team within their institution, identify a faculty advisor, and apply for the program here.

Apply to become a Student Hotspotter