To adapt to COVID-19, the healthcare industry has undergone dramatic shifts. Some changes were temporary measures that hospitals and healthcare organizations are unlikely to continue after the pandemic, while others have proven valuable and sustainable. 

Adaptations in the use of technology for employee management were especially impactful and will have staying power. In this blog, we discuss the healthcare trends that will likely play an important role in the medical industry and healthcare workforce in 2021 and beyond.

 

What are the current employment trends in healthcare?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall healthcare employment is expected to grow 15% over the next decade. The predicted growth in the healthcare workforce is largely due to the U.S.’s aging population: Older Americans will require more care for more complex, acute, and long-term health issues. This factor is compounded by the expectation that a large percentage of the clinical workforce is approaching retirement age. 

The projected growth in employment in healthcare far outpaces the average for all other occupations, and home healthcare services are a key driver of the anticipated healthcare workforce expansion.

The recent pandemic has injected stress into the healthcare workforce outlook, as well. It’s still too early to tell what the long-term mental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could be for healthcare workers, but it’s possible that provider burnout and dissatisfaction could lead to an uptick in turnover in the healthcare workforce. So not only will there be a number of new healthcare jobs available, but a higher-than-average number of existing positions may need to be filled as well.

What are some major changes in healthcare today?

COVID-19 has forced healthcare organizations to make a number of adjustments to their workforce management strategies. The following are the most notable emerging healthcare workforce trends, both COVID-related and otherwise.

Change in settings

Healthcare delivery will continue to shift from inpatient to ambulatory settings, and ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) and outpatient hospital departments have become more widely used in recent years. Outpatient facilities tend to be more conveniently located than a main hospital, and for many procedures they discharge patients faster, thereby reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections and giving patients the opportunity to recuperate at home.

In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule that would encourage healthcare organizations to shift more procedures to lower-cost outpatient facilities. While inpatient procedures allow for more intensive postoperative care, outpatient settings are typically associated with:

  • lower costs
  • shorter length of stay
  • higher overall patient satisfaction rates

 

As a result, ambulatory care facilities will add employees, with the projected growth rate of 35% over the next ten years. Notably, nonphysician providers will provide an increasing percentage of care in outpatient settings. 

Industry-wide consolidation

Consolidation of healthcare systems and organizations has been an ongoing trend that will continue. A Deloitte report indicated that the top 10 health systems now control 24% of the market—and that their revenue grew twice as quickly as the rest of the market. COVID-19 put some hospitals into dire financial straits when surgeries came to a halt, and for those that cannot recover financially, consolidation will continue to become increasingly more attractive.

There is also an ongoing push for hospitals and healthcare organizations to minimize the number of beds and reduce inpatient visits as much as possible. The rise of telemedicine and outpatient surgical facilities could mean fewer hospital roles for healthcare workers, but the overall workforce will continue to grow.

Technological innovations

Telemedicine and remote care had become increasingly popular in recent years, but with the pandemic forcing healthcare organizations to restrict in-person care, the number of organizations and facilities that adopted virtual care skyrocketed in the last year. 

The increased demand for telehealth has given providers and all healthcare employees more opportunities to get comfortable with the technology, which will likely drive demand for more robust telehealth platforms and services in the years to come. In fact, there is a good chance that a hybrid care model that relies on telemedicine for the initial patient touch will become the standard for post-pandemic healthcare delivery.

The digital mini-revolution that occurred during COVID-19 via telehealth has also laid the groundwork for healthcare organizations to take advantage of more tech-driven solutions in the future, including predictive analytics and big data. From a healthcare workforce perspective, expect increased demand for tech-savvy employees who can maximize the benefits of these solutions.

"Consumerization" of healthcare

In a consumer healthcare model, the patient has a greater degree of control and influence over their healthcare, largely because they pay more out of pocket. In practice, consumerization can take any number of forms, but they all share one characteristic: The consumer—not the payer—increasingly calls the shots when their money is at stake.

For example, a patient in New York can sign up for a membership at One Medical, a concierge-style provider that, for an annual fee, allows members to schedule same-day appointments and receive access to proprietary technology encompassing a wide variety of healthcare and wellness services. As reviews suggest, patients who experience the consumer healthcare model are unlikely to return to the traditional style of healthcare, which means payer organizations and health systems will need to adjust staffing appropriately to satisfy patient expectations. 

Data privacy

As technology solutions begin to play a more prominent role in healthcare delivery, healthcare organizations will need to invest time and resources into securing patient data. The days of paper charts in locked filing cabinets are over; healthcare organizations recognize the value of patient health data—and, unfortunately, so do cybercriminals. 

Healthcare organizations will need more employees to fill out growing IT teams to ensure they’re capable of addressing new and unexpected privacy and data security concerns.

What are the most important trends in healthcare technology?

Advances in healthcare technology aren’t limited to telehealth. As is the case in every industry, technological advancement in healthcare is an ongoing endeavor, and the quality of medical and healthcare-related technology is continually improving. These are some of the most notable trends in healthcare technology.

Internet-based gadgets

Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets allow an individual’s devices to connect, interact, and share with each other to create a network that can be controlled from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. In healthcare technology, IoT devices include biosensors, smart watches with vital sign capabilities, and even automated insulin delivery systems. These devices all play a role in the consumerization of healthcare, giving patients a clearer and more detailed view of their physical health and allowing them to play a more active role in their care.

IoT devices also allow for remote monitoring by providers for chronic disease management, post-surgical care, and more. The data they collect can be aggregated and analyzed to help providers and other healthcare staff identify opportunities to improve quality of care or reduce costs. Healthcare employees needed to guide health systems incorporating devices will include:

  • Quality assurance/Quality control 
  • Field Engineering
  • Research and development 
  • Validation
  • Sales
 

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has a variety of uses, and its potential is being recognized by an increasing number of healthcare organization leaders. In fact, a KPMG survey found that 82% of healthcare and life science executives want their organizations to more aggressively adopt AI technology.

From using predictive analysis to reduce diagnostic errors to automating processes, improving patient flow, and even identifying and developing new medicines, the possibilities for AI in healthcare are practically boundless. Health systems will seek to fill new associated roles with employees who have medical-technical backgrounds and skills in:

  • Scientific research
  • Mathematics
  • Software development
  • Hardware development
 

Virtual reality & augmented reality

Adoption of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) solutions has not yet become widespread in healthcare organizations, but that could change in the near future. VR cameras have been used to help train medical students by giving them a first-person perspective of surgical procedures and allowing them to see everything a surgeon is doing. By the same token, AR has been used in surgery to allow a group of surgeons across the globe to “join” a colleague in the operating theater and view the procedure firsthand.

Regarding the workforce outlook for VR and AR, once again, health systems will seek to hire tech-savvy employees who can maximize the benefits of these solutions.

The possibilities for healthcare technology are practically endless, and the healthcare workforce will need to expand the number and type of employees to take advantage of the opportunities. Schedule a free assessment with a symplr Workforce expert to learn how symplr’s technology solutions can help optimize your workforce strategies.

 

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