Change is the one constant in our society. As the world changes, the healthcare industry must evolve to meet new needs and provide care. The healthcare industry is integral to the physical and economic health of every person in the U.S. Healthcare professionals are vital to enacting and enforcing policies and keeping the system running efficiently. Today, however, we need these professionals more than ever.
Current challenges, such as an aging baby boomer generation, changes in healthcare policy and new technological advancements, reinforce our need for qualified individuals to lead hospitals, implement policy changes and manage information systems.
Not only does the world need more healthcare professionals, but the career itself can be rewarding to the individual. A career in healthcare may afford one the opportunity to have an impact on the health of an entire town, state or nation.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is one example of a healthcare professional who had a major impact on our society in 2016. Dr. Hanna-Attisha was the first to raise concern about the issue of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. She made the connection between a rise children’s blood lead levels with a switch in the source of the city’s drinking water.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s efforts led to the opening of a new Pediatric Public Health Initiative at Hurley Children’s Hospital. The Public Health Initiative works with many partners, including Flint’s parents and children, to help mitigate the impact of the Flint Water Crisis and advocate for child health policy through community and clinical programs.
Josh Benner is another healthcare professional who made an impact in 2016 when he sold his company RXAnte to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Enterprises unit. The deal leaves Josh as CEO where he can continue to carry out the company’s mission of reducing the billions of dollars wasted on consequences of prescription medications that are inappropriately prescribed and used.
The new deal may also expand RXAnte’s powerful analytics and clinical offerings for Medicare, Medicaid and commercial populations with a focus on analytics and clinical programs. Such a partnership can have a positive impact on rising Medicare and Medicaid costs.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha and Josh Benner are examples of people in healthcare who are making an impact.
Why we need healthcare professionals now more than ever
Demographic shifts, political party changes and technological advancements have helped shape our healthcare system for decades, and these things will continue to impact the future of healthcare.
Let’s look at five specific reasons that the U.S. needs healthcare professionals today.
1. An aging population of baby boomers
Approximately 76 million people were born between 1946 and 1964, labeled the baby boomer generation, which was the largest in history. The oldest members of this generation reached social security retirement age in 2012; the remaining baby boomers will be of retirement age by 2030. Divide the 76 million baby boomers by the 19-year span of this generation to see an average of four million people retiring annually, or nearly 11,000 people per day.
Most baby boomers will rely on Medicare and/or Medicaid to provide post-retirement healthcare, which will strain existing healthcare resources. Adding to the strain, the average life expectancy continues to increase, which means the boomer generation is likely to live, and rely on such programs, longer than previous generations. To put this into perspective, the current life expectancy of 78.8 years is nearly double what it was a century ago. These increases in patients should be met with an increase in healthcare professionals to maintain efficient healthcare.
Because of this increased burden, professionals in healthcare must ensure that payment and insurance systems are running efficiently and taking advantage of technological advances to keep this aging group healthy and active. Healthcare professionals will also be required to provide care, manage staff and manage the increased load on IT systems. These tasks call for professionals who specialize in finance, management, leadership and technology.
2. A booming biopharmaceutical industry
In its annual World Preview report, market research firm Evaluate Pharma projected a global growth rate for the pharmaceutical industry of 6.3 percent through 2022, which is up from the five percent it predicted last year through 2020.
With growing demand comes an increased need for professionals in this field. The biopharmaceutical sector creates jobs that offer high wages and require a workforce with diverse education and skills. In fact, employees in this sector earned an average salary of $123,108 in 2014.
Biopharmaceuticals is a large and growing part of the economy that could benefit from an increase in qualified healthcare professionals. This specialty is a good fit or a professional with a chemistry or biology background. Job titles include clinical research associate, molecular biology or genomics technician and environmental health and safety manager.
3. An ever-evolving environment led by political influences
Of all the social, economic and technological factors that affect healthcare, politics is arguably the most influential driver of change.
A 2014 Gallup Poll indicated that no other factor is as relevant to Americans’ opinions on healthcare as their party affiliation. The poll asked specific questions about the Affordable Care
Act; the results showed that Republicans were 17 times more likely to disapprove of the ACA than Democrats.
The current political mood suggests major changes to the Affordable Care Act are likely now that a Republican president is in office. Any changes made to healthcare will be enforced in the coming years, and the industry must rely on capable and well-educated professionals to implement these changes.
Professionals looking to get involved in healthcare policy may consider careers such as public health researcher, healthcare policy analyst or health services manager. Healthcare policy jobs can be divided into the following three categories:
Healthcare settings careers: As the U.S. healthcare system continues to transform, many institutions are seeking to fill professional positions with candidates experienced with health policy. Healthcare policy jobs require ongoing education to ensure the institution is following proper protocol.
Healthcare consulting careers: Many providers do not have the means to employ people with specific expertise in healthcare policy, so they outsource the work to consulting firms. Healthcare consulting firms provide the added benefit of being able to use advanced data and financial modeling that a private organization likely cannot access.
Government policy careers: Government policy careers offer the ability to affect policy before it is created. Healthcare policy analysts who work for the government are tasked with analyzing the success or failure of current programs and recommending changes that will promote individual and community health.
4. Competition drives creativity
As summarized in a 2010 Academy of Management Journal article, competition leads to enhanced creativity when professionals are excited about the task they are performing. When the same people are anxious or nervous about their task, competition is more likely to lead to unethical behavior.
Those who succeed will be driven to make a difference in the world through their work. Such drive will keep the excitement and creativity flowing throughout their careers. Every specialty in the healthcare industry can undoubtedly benefit from increased competition and the individual creativity that follows.
Creativity and excitement for your work will largely depend on your strengths and personal preferences. As more professionals enter the workforce, there may be more opportunities to specialize in a certain niche.
The number of medical professionals pursuing M.B.A. degrees is on the rise, according to a large-scale analysis of Harvard Business School’s physician graduates. This leaves room for a doctor or executive to become an expert in a specialty, such as a cardiothoracic surgeon who specializes in lung cancer or a hospital administrator who specializes in patient advocacy.
Increased competition can also drive creativity because it increases physiological and psychological activation, which enables the body and mind to perform at higher levels. However, competition can also be detrimental.
Professionals can show ambition and creativity in any healthcare role, including hospital administrator, hospital CEO or budget analyst.
5. New technologies continue to enter the healthcare industry
Healthcare technology is affecting the industry with breakthroughs in data collection, research and treatment options. The global home care diagnostics and monitoring market is predicted to grow 8.71 percent between 2016 and 2020. Technology is the driving force behind the increase. New technologically advanced home monitoring devices present an opportunity for more healthcare professionals to get involved in the expanding medical device sector. Home diagnostics and monitoring devices include things like heart rate monitors and blood glucose level indicators. New home monitoring technologies include wireless sensor technology and remote patient monitoring. Wireless sensor technology allows patients to wear home health monitors without the inconvenience or obstruction of wires. Remote patient monitoring will eventually allow doctors to monitor patients who are living in the comfort of their own homes.
With the assistance of advanced home diagnostics and monitoring devices, doctors and patients are relying on telemedicine more and more. Technology allows doctors to meet with patients in the comfort of their homes via webcam, which allows them to make split-second decisions about a patient’s health; even a few moments saved can save someone’s life, especially in the case of a heart attack or stroke.
As technology changes healthcare, there will be a greater need for healthcare informatics professionals to create, analyze and manage new technologies.
Those who choose a career in healthcare are rewarded with the knowledge that they are making a difference in the world. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Josh Benner illustrate the affect one person can have on the general public. Healthcare is one of the few professions where this type of reach is likely, and this may be why professionals are choosing to continue their education with an M.B.A in healthcare.
In the coming years, we can expect an increase in demand on the healthcare system. Now more than ever, the world needs qualified healthcare professionals to handle the demand increase, enforce new policies, manage technological advancements and further accelerate the biopharmaceutical industry.
Specialized education is the first step to achieving success in healthcare. Healthcare professionals who want to get involved in the business of healthcare may consider an M.B.A program that specializes in this industry.