Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog
For the past decade, the health care industry has been viewed as a steady industry with relatively high wages. The industry has been able to weather the economic storm when other sectors falter.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2010, the health care services industry accounted for approximately $1.75 trillion in revenues and employed more than 14 million people, or 9 percent of the U.S. workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that growth in the industry will yield 3.2 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018. Jobs in home health care services and diagnostic laboratories are expected to grow at the fastest pace – up to 40 percent over the next 10 years.
But as many industries are experiencing changes, so, too, is health care. Here are the five things that we expect will influence this industry in the next 5-10 years:
Mobile health technology
Think of the way the character Bones from “Star Trek” waved a wand over an injured patient to assess injuries. Or consider that a chip inside a replacement hip or joint could transmit data about the condition or use of the prosthetic, similar to the way a car tells you the tire pressure is low before you have a flat.
Advancements in technology are leading to a plethora of ways to determine a health issue before it happens. Wristbands are on the market that measure the body’s diagnostics and could alert a user to an issue, including a heart attack, before it ever happens.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Investment in medical device research and development more than doubled during the 1990s, and research and development investment in the domestic sector remains more than twice the average for all U.S. manufacturers overall.”
Because health emergencies are more likely to be discovered before occurring with these technologies, this should lead to a better quality of life, less invasive procedures and a better general understanding of one’s health and wellbeing.
And what’s the point of even visiting a doctor? In remote areas of the world, doctors are visiting patients without ever stepping foot in the country. Especially in the field of dermatology, doctors use teleconferencing tools to virtually visit the patient, give a diagnosis and determine a care plan.
A speaker at a recent Medical Mainstreet conference in Oakland County envisioned the future hospital setting to be that of a drive-thru. Patients will visit mainly for the purposes of procedures and be sent home quickly, while diagnosis and observation will be conducted virtually, but in a home setting.
This should lead to less need for highly skilled healthcare providers. They will be able to visit more patients, more quickly leading to an increased need for home health care workers, one of the lowest skilled and lowest paid occupations in health care.
Liability concerns for hiring
WIN has convened several health care groups in Southeast Michigan over the past year and a half. We always like to ask: Do you have the workers you need? Is there sufficient talent in the region to meet your demand? This is a particularly applicable question when discussing registered nurses.
Of the approximately 40,500 health care job postings over the past 365 days, registered nurse was the third highest occupation in demand in the Southeast Michigan region. RN job postings account for the largest share of job demand in health care at approximately 11,500 job postings, almost one-third of the demand in the industry (28.5 percent). Nursing assistants came in second with a little more than 2,500 postings (6.2 percent).
So why is there such a shortage? In part, this phenomena is due to the health care providers’ preference for RNs with several years of experience. This has been an increasing trend among all types of health care providers. Why? Liability. A number of health care organizations have indicated that a freshly graduated registered nurse is more likely to make errors than those who have had boots on the ground for a few years. Those mistakes lead to medical malpractice lawsuits, a situation that has caused health care costs to soar already. Many of the health systems recommended internships as a way of filling this gap and many of the current available internships occur within the health systems.
Electronic medical records and transition to ICD-10
In October, all health care providers will be required to switch their billing and coding language from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-9 to ICD-10. Imagine the U.S. government declaring that in two years, everyone will be required to speak a different language. That is basically what is happening in the medical coding world. The new medical codes will allow much more detail than previous codes. According to the American Association of Professional Coders, “Even if the coder, biller, and physician obtain the recommended training, it is expected that a short term 25 percent decline in productivity when coding with ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS will be noted.” Other studies have indicated a possible productivity loss over 50 percent. Medical billers and coders will be in high demand, especially around the changeover in October 2014. It is difficult to determine how much of this productivity will be regained once the billers and coders are “fluent.”
The Affordable Care Act
Let us set aside the problems with the healthcare.gov website and whatever political beliefs one might hold about the new law: The Affordable Care Act means more people will be accessing care, which means more care will be given and more people hired to give it. In an industry in which there already is a shortage of workers in several key areas, including registered nurses, that means the industry is going to need to ramp up it hiring even more. Even if successful, longer wait times should still be expected. Hopefully that mobile technology will kick in just in time to save the day … literally.
Decreasing Medicare and Medicaid payments
In anticipation of the Affordable Care Act, the way Medicare and Medicaid pay a medical provider for services rendered is changing. Hospitals and doctor offices are receiving less money from these programs. While this should be balanced by an increased number of patients because more people are able to access health care, this has yet to happen, leaving health providers dealing with a fiscal crunch.
This blog was compiled with research and content from Tricia Walding-Smith, project manager – Research & Policy, Workforce Intelligence Network.
 Burning Glass Labor Insights, data pulled Dec. 12, 2013