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How Healthcare Economics Could Impact 2013 Healthcare Staffing

How Healthcare Economics Could Impact 2013 Healthcare Staffing

By: John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer 

Healthcare reform, our aging population, the economics of consolidation and other factors will determine the course of healthcare staffing in the foreseeable future.

Here are seven trends that will impact healthcare economics and decide where recruiters in this industry will find success in 2013.

Labor Demand: ACA Shifts into High Gear
Demand in various healthcare occupations is expected to rise sharply this year, as stakeholders prepare to meet various Affordable Care Act (ACA) deadlines, including the January 1st, 2014 requirement that insurers cover everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions.

“Employers are putting the pieces in place to hire for next year,” says Gerrit Salinas, director of medical staffing at Snelling Staffing Services in Dallas.

“There’s going to be a massive push to ramp up staffing to meet demand. The problem is, they’re all going to be trying to hire at the same time.”

Supply: Ample New Grads, Few Experienced Clinicians
At the same time, with enrollment in clinical and allied health training programs increasing, recruiters are working with a wider pipeline of educated professionals, though many active candidates have little experience.

“With schools putting out more and more clinical grads each day, hospitals can be much more selective in their hiring,” says Scott Agostini, director of human resources at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia.

Experienced candidates are still hard to woo. Many veteran nurses and other in-demand health professionals aren’t open to a career move; they’re either considering retirement or are resistant to switching employers during this period of profound change in the healthcare system.

Accountable Care Creates New Economic Incentives
From an increased emphasis on primary care, to incentives to adopt healthcare information technology, the ACA includes many initiatives that rewards stakeholders who bring on the talent to meet quality and cost goals.

For example, “Hospitals have begun to hire entry-level workers whose sole job is to monitor patient safety,” Agostini says. These workers provide wound care, improve patient safety, and perform monitoring activities to ensure higher quality of care -- which can, in turn, maximize reimbursement under healthcare reform.

Orders for such workers won’t be the most profitable for recruiters, but they can help an agency get a foot in the door.

Medicaid: Where Politics Meets Economics
The Federal government is funding a broad expansion of Medicaid on the state level, but only in those states that sign on and agree to pay up to 10 percent of the cost several years down the road.

Although some governors are balking, “Eventually the vast majority of states will come on board, but it may take a number of years,” says Ani Turner, deputy director of the Altarum Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

Since Medicaid mainly covers non-elderly people with lower incomes, an increase in associated health services will boost employment in preventive-care roles.
 
Fiscal Pressure on Providers May Limit Employment Growth
Fiscal pressures -- from penalties for preventable hospital readmissions to economic motivations like economies of scale -- have CFOs at hospitals looking for every possible means of containing expenses, with medical staffing being chief among them.

“Facilities are consolidating and integrating and finding ways to take cost out of the systems,” says Patrick Thompson, executive vice president of administration and CIO of home healthcare provider Amedisys in Baton Rouge, La.

In the longer term, fiscal pressure will likely limit increases in healthcare jobs. “There is a lot of concern about the future re belt-tightening and consolidation,” says Turner. “But we’re not yet seeing a slowdown in employment growth, even given potential payment cuts in the future.”

Contingent Staffing for Times of Shifting Labor Demand
Contract, temporary and per diem staffing arrangements have been critical to the healthcare industry through this period of system change, as in previous decades. But to rein in current costs, many healthcare employers may be pulling back on contingent labor.

“We’re seeing more opportunity to hire full-time and reduce contracting services,” says Thompson. Amedisys reduced its use of contract workers by about one-third in 2012 by hiring full-time professionals whose jobs had been eliminated by merging institutions.

Contingent workers will always have a role to play in healthcare, and that role continues to evolve.

“Once the terms of healthcare reform become more clear, the flexible staff may need to be cut back,” says Agostini.

Patient, Clinician Demographics Will Shape Future Finances
Whatever the course of healthcare reform, demographics will continue to be the overarching force shaping the industry economically.

Although the leading age of the baby-boomer generation has begun retiring, the bulk of their healthcare costs will happen in the next 10 or 20 years.

“You’re not going to see the main cost effect of aging boomers right now,” says Turner. “People don’t become really high-cost patients until age 75 or even 85.”

To cope with the eventuality of tens of millions of very old boomers requiring lots of care, and the likelihood of physician burnout, recruiters will likely look to a rapidly growing niche: mid-level practitioners.

“To handle geriatric patients, the health system can respond much faster by adding physician assistants and nurse practitioners” than by trying to train more geriatric physicians, says Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Institute.