Ten Trends Driving Growth in Healthcare Jobs

The healthcare industry is the largest employer in the United States, and it’s only getting bigger: the BLS predicted that over 2.4 million healthcare jobs would be added between 2016 and 2026. But jobs in healthcare aren’t reserved for nurses and doctors anymore, and it’s the non-medical roles that are receiving the majority of the attention. Healthcare administration, in particular, is projected to grow at almost triple the average rate of all U.S. professions.

Advances in technology are causing an upheaval in the way the business of healthcare is conducted and administered. As the industry switches from reactive care to preventative care, healthcare professionals need to take into account the sociological and technological factors involved in the social determinants of health and population health management. Meanwhile, empowered and connected healthcare consumers are demanding convenient and integrated systems of care.

Innovations in healthcare are pointing to an increasing need for healthcare administration, healthcare IT, and healthcare policy professionals. But the underlying trends are heavily intertwined, and interdisciplinary partnerships are necessary to redesign a modern vision of healthcare. Multiple transformations are already underway in America’s largest industry. Read on to get the details of what’s causing them, and where they’re heading.

Aging and Diversifying Populations

Perhaps the biggest trend driving healthcare growth in the United States is the country’s aging population. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be older than 65, making them eligible for Medicare. The Census Bureau projects that by 2035 there will be more Americans over 65 than under 18, and more than 20 percent of Americans will be of retirement age. An older population understandably necessitates an increased provision of medical services, and that increase is one that the American healthcare industry is planning for now with more hiring, spending, and research.

While the Baby Boomer generation often steals the spotlight, there are further changes in the American population that are driving the need for more and better healthcare resources. By 2030, the American population will also be more racially and ethnically diverse, requiring medical facilities and healthcare systems that can provide culturally competent care, taking into account differences when providing services and assessing the social determinants of health.

Increasing Availability of Big Data

There are few industries more impacted by big data than healthcare, and this is largely due to the sheer amount that’s collected. The total amount of health data is doubling every three years, but it’s expected to be doubling every 73 days by 2020, according to IBM.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are storing extremely detailed patient records, while medical facilities also track and utilize medical device data connected through the Internet of Things (IoT). Worldwide, there are over 325 million connected wearable devices—most of which are capable of recording heart rate, sleep patterns, calorie consumption, and other metrics that can be helpful in determining an individualized treatment approach.

Online diagnostics and genetic sequencing services contribute to the tsunami of data as well. All this leads to two key issues: utilization and securitization. As a result, there’s an increased need for specialized healthcare IT talent, both in data science and database management. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 healthcare report, big data was the number one form of technology being adopted in the industry.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence

Big data is rocket fuel for artificial intelligence and machine learning. As such, healthcare is at the forefront of applicable advances in AI. A recent study found that AI can detect acute neurologic events in CT scans in just 1.2 seconds, and is able to preprocess an image, read it, and alert a radiologist (if necessary) about 150 times faster than normal.

Further AI applications exist for healthcare in robot-assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistants, clinical trial participation, and administrative workflow. An investigation by Harvard Business Review and Accenture, a consultancy, estimates that AI applications could create up to $150 billion in annual savings for U.S. healthcare by 2026.

It’s a common myth that AI reduces jobs, when in fact it will likely create at least as many as it eliminates. In some industries, it’s even expected to significantly increase the number of jobs—and healthcare tops that list. According to PwC, the number of jobs in healthcare will increase over 20 percent by 2037 in the U.K. due to AI alone.

Increasing Adoption of Advanced Tech

AI is just one part of what the World Economic Forum and others are calling the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Advancements across a suite of technologies are modernizing the face of healthcare:

  • An increase in the availability of mobile internet, combined with improvements in video conferencing technology, opens up avenues for telehealth, which can reach patients in rural locations, free up beds in hospitals, and reduce burdens on medical facilities.
  • 3D printing can reduce the costs and hindrances of prosthetics, provide breakthroughs in tissue engineering, and even find applications in pharmacology.
  • Blockchain technology can secure patient records and give them easy interoperability between health systems.
  • Quantum computing can unlock advances in medical science previously unimagined.

Each of these technologies is cited by the WEF’s 2018 report on healthcare as an area of increased adoption, which requires employees with specialized IT skillsets who can interface with the healthcare industry.

Shift to Value-Based Care

In the United States, one of the biggest drivers of change is the shift from a fee-for-service (FFS) payment model to a system of value-based care (VBC)—a change hospital CEO Dr. David Pate discussed with MHAOnline in a recent interview.

The FFS model emphasized profit and service quantity, while the VBC model emphasizes transparency, prevention, and service quality. On one hand, this causes an enormous financial squeeze for medical facilities and necessitates shrewd financial administrators who can completely rebuild an operational business model. On the other hand, it drives growth in more preventative and patient-centric methods of care.

In order to survive, experts say that medical facilities will need to increase payer-provider collaboration, securely share patient data, invest in IT and analytical support, and shift from reactive care to preventative care.

Expanding Global Middle Class

Another demographic shift driving growth in healthcare is the expansion of the global middle class. In some ways, this is a boon to the healthcare industry. Middle-class populations are better connected, and thus better able to receive services offered through the advanced technology that the industry is adopting. They are also healthier and more educated, and therefore a good target for preventative care, which can reduce costs for medical facilities. And they’re more affluent than their lower-class counterparts, meaning they are less likely to become delinquent on their medical accounts.

But ascension to the middle class also carries with it some health issues: an increased chance of living a sedentary lifestyle, which leads to nagging and chronic conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, cancer) that can sap the resources of a healthcare system. The key challenge for the healthcare industry as it relates to an expanding middle class lies in the area of population health management, wherein medical facilities and providers promote cultures of wellness that encourage active, healthy lifestyles among a larger-than-ever-before client base.

Changing Regulations

Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries in the world, and those regulations are in constant flux.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare, has continued to expand its services in some areas, while the Republicans’ new American Health Care Act (AHCA) repeals aspects of the ACA in other areas. Regulations and policies imposed in 2015 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are just now being felt, and they’re the main reason why the healthcare industry is shifting away from a fee-for-service model to one of value-based care.

The presence of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) looms over everything, demanding privacy outcomes from an industry practically drowning in sensitive data, and necessitating an increase in healthcare cybersecurity spending. In order to stay afloat amidst the shifting tides of regulation, many medical facilities and health systems will employ chief compliance officers, compliance teams, and IT administrators whose top priority is ensuring that adherence to regulations is maintained.

Increasing Rates of Chronic Disease

The battle against communicable diseases is being won, but the battle against chronic diseases is not. According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases are expected to increase 57 percent by 2020, with over 60 percent of them occurring in emerging markets.

In some ways, this is a function of demographic statistics: people are living longer, and are therefore more susceptible to chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. A growing middle class’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle also plays a part in creating chronic conditions like obesity.

But sometimes the causes and outcomes are more multifaceted and nefarious: the opioid epidemic in the United States, for example, has causes that go beyond healthcare’s sphere of influence. Over 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses, according to a study by the CDC; counteracting this requires not only reactive care but also preventative treatment designed and carried out by addiction and mental health specialists who can trace the problem back to its personalized origin.

While chronic diseases cannot be cured, they can be avoided and managed.

Expanding Global Affluence

As science-fiction author William Gibson once proclaimed: “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” The global healthcare system knows this all too well. More than three million people die every year from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

While core needs and services can be the same across many different countries, global healthcare spending remains remarkably uneven. According to Deloitte, a consultancy, the average healthcare spending per person is over $11,000 in the U.S., while just $54 in Pakistan.

Market forces are already working to correct this imbalance. Global healthcare spending is projected to reach over $10 trillion by 2022, and the World Economic Forum has listed “expanding global affluence” the third biggest trend driving industry growth. As emerging markets enlarge their total spending on healthcare, healthcare consultants and specialists are increasingly being asked to think globally.

Rising Need for Collaboration

Business may be ruthlessly competitive, but in the dynamic world of healthcare, peaceful collaboration is critical to its survival. Consolidation of healthcare facilities leads to reduced costs and increased ability to weather financial risks. Sharing patient data and best practices improves patient outcomes and increases operational efficiency.

A collective approach to population health management means reduced burdens on care facilities. Interoperability, partnership, and transparency are integral elements of the 21st-century healthcare industry. Increased attention to the social determinants of health—i.e., the non-medical causes of disease—is requiring healthcare to interface with non-medical industries like housing, banking, retail, and technologies.

Forging such multidisciplinary partnerships is the bailiwick of healthcare administration—one of the fastest growing sectors of healthcare. In a world growing ever more interconnected, further interconnection is the answer. Those who eschew collaboration in the healthcare industry will be left ill-equipped because we are stronger together.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about emerging issues in healthcare administration and public health, with a particular focus on progressive policies that empower communities and reduce health disparities. His work centers around detailed interviews with researchers, professors, and practitioners, as well as with subject matter experts from professional associations such as the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) and the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHCA).

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