Understanding healthcare workforce trends and how they impact your business

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With unemployment rates, economic revitalization, and healthcare all at the forefront of U.S. news and politics, it is increasingly important to understand the high level trends that will affect those seeking employment as well as those looking to hire. More than ever before, we should expect to see a new approach to staffing needs within healthcare organizations in particular. Keeping larger health care organizations well-staffed is not just about doctors and nurses; more and more, executives will be looking to versatile roles that offer structure, process, and support for daily organizations needs.

With more than 7 million Americans newly enrolled in the Affordable Care Act - and that number growing - strategic staffing will certainly become a top priority for healthcare institutions. This year, 42% of hospital executives cited that staffing would be critical, “compared to 9 percent in 2009…”.

Due to the rapid influx of newly insured Americans, institutions should expect a sharp spike in visits from patients who are receiving basic healthcare and taking advantage of their recently acquired insurance benefits. This means that healthcare institutions won’t be focused solely on hiring doctors and nurses. In fact, in order to keep large healthcare organizations running smoothly, we should expect to see a significant demand for mid to low-level nurse practitioners and other support roles that will help health providing institutions respond with basic primary care.

Within larger physician groups and hospitals in particular, employee structure is another element that will require new attention. As demand continues to grow, executives within these organizations must assess which roles provide the most return on investment - and much of that return will come from new, smaller roles - such as health care coordinators, medical billing associates and/or coders, and low-level management - that support the infrastructure of the organizational itself. In fact, the greatest demand may be around care coordination more than care itself.

In a recent U.S. News article, William Leaver, CEO of Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Healthcare, says, “We need to master care coordination…”. In order to achieve this, Leaver will need “care navigators, mid-level nurse practitioners and other care extenders, in addition to primary care doctors” - marking a new type of demand for hospitals and physician groups.

An increased demand for employees in the healthcare industry doesn’t necessarily mean that job security will rise. Healthcare professionals may find themselves under increased scrutiny, as employers will be looking to achieve the maximum return for every role on salary. Administrative professionals and coordinators in particular may find that their roles have expanded to encompass more responsibilities - leaving more room for professional development - but at the cost of added tasks. Sharp increases in basic patient care at already busy health care organizations will require added support at every level: from initial paperwork and scheduling to nurse assistance to medical billing.

Outside of primary care, primary care assistance, and admin, other rising roles will include physician’s assistants, physical therapists and assistants, and home health aides.