The healthcare industry is experiencing an increasing demand for a workforce, and there are influential factors that drive this demand.
The healthcare industry predicted a sharp decline in the job market for healthcare professionals at the end of 2017. Keeping in view the state of turmoil that the healthcare policy was witnessing back then, it was evident that value-based medicine and emr software would experience a severe blow, significantly reducing hospital admissions. The increased number of sign-ups for Obamacare was another primary reason for such prevailing beliefs.
Unexpectedly, the exact opposite happened. Healthcare employment, including ambulatory care and hospital jobs, all grew at an exponential rate in 2018, reaching soaring levels in 2019. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that December 2018 surpassed all previous months in terms of job growth, with 50,000 new jobs created in this month alone.
The healthcare industry is currently the largest employer in the U.S., with over 18.9 million jobs, which is almost four million more than in 2005. Hospital jobs notably witnessed the highest growth, primarily owing to policy and regulatory changes. A total of about 109,000 new hospital jobs were created in 2019, while ambulatory care added 253,000.
So, what drives this surging demand for the healthcare workforce?
America’s Aging Population
The number of older Americans requiring healthcare services has increased exponentially as the Baby Boomer generation has started reaching 65 years of age. At the same time, life expectancies have also increased considerably, amplifying the need for healthcare. Hence, from physicians to nursing staff, and from retirement homes workforce to pharmacists and rehabilitation staff, there is an overwhelming staffing demand across the country.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 49 million Americans 65 and older in 2016. However, by 2035, there will be 78 million, and by 2060, there will be 95 million. Moreover, the number of older people is expected to outnumber the number of children by the 2030s.
Compared to younger populations, older people use healthcare services much more. They are much more likely to experience illnesses, both acute and chronic, and to have multiple diseases. Rising demand for services directly correlates with increasing demand for nurses, physicians, allied professionals, and others to perform those services.
More Americans Seeking Insurance Coverage
With the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have enrolled in health insurance plans. Also, due to Medicaid expansion in many states, many people who were previously uncovered now enjoy healthcare coverage. This expansion has led to a surge in demand for healthcare workers as more and more people have started seeking healthcare under state programs. Moreover, Medicare also covers services related to the diagnosis and treatment of individual illnesses to a significant extent, which makes it a steady source of fueling the growing demand for the healthcare workforce.
Another relevant factor herein is the increasing number of jobs in other sectors apart from healthcare. According to BLS, the number of total employment is expected to increase by 11.5 m from 2016 to 2026. More jobs will eventually mean more people seeking healthcare coverage as they have more disposable income at hand.
Coronavirus Pandemic – The COVID-19 crisis has exerted significant pressure on the healthcare industry worldwide, and the U.S. is no exception. With public health emergencies declared and the increasing number of cases every passing day, the American healthcare sector is facing a severe shortage of healthcare staff. Hence, in an industry already short of workers, the pandemic has exerted additional pressures, which has made healthcare facilities scramble to meet the overwhelming demands of the crisis.
More and more staff are needed at the mobile care units and tents are being set up for the emergency response. Similarly, more staff is required for triage screening, call centers, lab testing facilities, and literally in every aspect of healthcare delivery. There is an exponentially increasing demand for physicians, nurses, therapists, behavioral health professionals, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The healthcare job environment is creating its demand whirlpool, while all the various components of the health system intensify competition to seek quality professionals. The situation is expected to exacerbate in the future as more Americans continue to age, baby boomer healthcare workers retire, and there is a smaller talent pool to replace these workers. However, there is no quick fix to the crisis. What is needed is more healthcare professionals graduating from residency slots, extensive training of the existing healthcare workforce, and a virtual revolution in a technology-enabled workforce that can optimize staffing.
Summer Larson’s background in healthcare stretches over 11 years. He is a well-renowned health IT expert and contributes regularly to popular blogs and websites. She covers topics ranging from health reforms to the application of IT in healthcare. In 2013 he formed EMR Specialist, a company specializing in assisting providers with the adoption and implementation of electronic health records (EHR) and working with EHR vendors on usability and certification projects. Summer Larson is also an avid Star Wars fan.