Health care has remained a bright spot in a sluggish job market, thanks in part to an aging population as well as health care reform measures that require new technologies, training and education. Connecticut health-related companies are marching forward to meet those needs.

James Cox-Chapman, chief medical officer of Farmington-based ProHealth Physicians, said he has seen more change in the industry in past three years than in the previous 24 years.

"There are times of stress when there are changes occurring rapidly in the industry, but I enjoy that piece of it. We have a sort of all-hands-on-deck attitude. If something needs to be done, we all work together," said Jo Ann Bromley, practice operations project manager at ProHealth Physicians.

And it is evident from this year's results in the Top Workplaces competition that health care-related companies in Connecticut are great places to work. Eleven of the 50 companies recognized this year are related to the health care industry and two received special awards. There was one hospital, one physician organization, two health insurance companies, one social services company, two assisted living centers, two physical therapy centers, and two behavioral health companies.

As the industry expands, it has diversified, creating more tightly focused workplaces.

For example, many pediatric specialists have consolidated at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, a free-standing children's hospital in Hartford.

"It's an offshoot of where health care has gone, in terms of the need for increased specialization as technology is booming," said Anand Sekaran, division head and director of inpatient management at Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

"….everyone is focused on one thing. We're there for helping these sick kids," Sekaran said.

Connecticut Children's has taken steps to improve quality of care, installing monitors across the hospital that display how many times employees have washed their hands or to show the hospital's acquired infection rate. That matches the hospital's mission of improving managed care and decreasing the length of stay for each patient, according to executive vice president Theresa Hendricksen.

Lori Szczygiel, CEO of the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership under ValueOptions, said she found that when she started in Connecticut there was a problem with children being stuck in emergency rooms since there was no room in the inpatient psychiatric unit.

Both companies have worked to lessen the length of stay of patients, but this change brings a financial risk to the companies since the current revenue stream is based on children's hospital stays. Health care reform includes performance incentive program, to change how hospitals are paid.

For their part, ProHealth Physicians, a physician-driven health care system, aims to improve care for patients as well as provide greater support for physicians and other health employees, whether it be financial, technological, or educational.

Similarly, Aetna too has recognized a need to provide greater support to health industry employees to keep them abreast of changes and needed skills. In addition to employee research and support groups, the health insurance company recently created Aetna University, a free training program for employees, with an eye on providing that support.

"We need our leaders to be better prepared to handle a much more complex, customer-focused environment," said Ted Fleming, head of Aetna University.

Such internal training programs helps companies grow their own needed employees by filling from within. ProHealth's Jo Ann Bromley said she began as a receptionist and now serves as practice operations project manager.

ProHealth's Jo Ann Bromley began as a receptionist. Now, as practice operations project manager, her job is focused on overseeing all primary care sites and assisting physicians and practice managers, helping them understand the changes in the industry. ProHealth developed a new information technology department to help create the infrastructure for electronic records and other tools to help management, according to Jack Reed, CEO of ProHealth.

Connecticut Children¹s has been focused on meeting those demands, including the requirement that medical records be electronically accessible.

Connecticut Children's has been focused on meeting those demands, including the requirement that medical records be electronically accessible.

"It [electronic records] allows specialists to finally be able to interconnect and know what each other have been doing, to avoid duplication and increase communication," Sekaran said.

Another change in the industry has been a focus on in-home care, as opposed to nursing homes, and companies have grown up around that need as well. One such company is Connecticut Community Care, Inc., the winner of a special award in training. It provides care management services for people to live at home.

"We're helping people to have self-determination within their own lives to live how and where they choose," said Sheila Molony, director of quality improvement at CCCI.