Expect a hiring surge in varied healthcare jobs

Healthcare employment will be on the rise for many years to come. Let’s take a look at some numbers. The size of the healthcare staffing industry, according to Staffing Industry Analysts, was $10.3 billion in 2014 and is expected to grow 7% this year. Meanwhile, according to the US Department of Labor’s Career Guide to Industries, healthcare employment will increase 28% from 2012 through 2022 — or about 5.0 million new jobs. The jobs data since 2012 is tracking accordingly.

Several factors are driving this expected growth. The fastest-growing segment of the US population is those 65 and older, and they are typically the largest consumers of healthcare services and are either retired or will be soon. US News & World Report reveals there are 75 million baby boomers that are on the verge of retirement. This will not only increase demand for health services, but also cut the supply of labor needed to meet that demand.

When you take into account the projected 16 million to 30 million newly insured people who gained access to the healthcare system through the Affordable Care Act, you can see how more healthcare providers will be needed, as well as those whose work supports the industry, such as IT workers.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 1.5 million healthcare jobs have been created (60% of all new jobs). This totals nearly 15 million people employed in the healthcare sector. Many positions will see double-digit growth. The top five in terms of percentage growth are industrial psychologists (53%), personal care aides (49%), home care aides (48%), diagnostic medical sonographers (46%) and occupational therapy assistants (43%).

Not only are the projected growth rates impressive, but also important is the net number of jobs that will be created. Personal care aides top the list of growth in clinical healthcare jobs, adding an expected 580,000 jobs by 2022. Rounding out the top five are registered nurses (526,000, plus a shortage of 800), home health aides (424,200), nursing assistants (312,000) and medical secretaries (189,200).

Where the Jobs Will Be

Among those positive about the growth is the Georgetown University Center for Education, which estimates that an additional 5.6 million healthcare jobs will be added by 2020.

Hospitals and health practitioners’ offices currently comprise the lion’s share of healthcare jobs, but jobs are beginning to shift from higher cost settings to lower cost post-acute ambulatory settings (see chart below). Lower cost urgent care and related clinic settings are also thriving with increased demand from patients and the encouragement from Medicare/Medicaid and insurance companies.

Phoning it in. But it’s not just about the progress in traditional segments. With the improvement in technology and as some organizations strive to contain costs and provide access, tele-medicine is also catching on and growing due to its lower cost and flexible nature. This is especially true in rural communities where talent is also scarce. The effect is felt in areas such as therapy, ER, workers’ comp, schools and primary care. Presence Learning is a staffing company that has staked a claim in the speech-language pathology niche in schools, while Barton Locums is providing tele-medicine doctors in a number of areas through its specialty division of Barton Tele-Health.

Industry Sector

Non-Clinical Job Growth

Increased emphasis on providing an exceptional patient experience, the growth of community-based healthcare initiatives and the increased use of technology in clinical settings are resulting in the development of non-clinical healthcare-related skills.

HC IT. The ACA and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, for instance, have led to growing demand for healthcare IT and data professionals as all health organizations and service providers must now use electronic medical records. The US is in the early stages of utilization, but will continue to see a growing demand for IT workers and data professional for decades to come.

The US Labor Department projects nearly 41,100 more health information technician jobs will be created from 2012 to 2022, a 22% increase.

Medical coders. By October, all healthcare providers in the US must adopt ICD-10 international standards for Medicare, Medicaid and other payer reimbursements; finally forcing us to catch up with the rest of the globe. This government mandate has created tremendous demand for medical coders. The ICD 10 system has a 300% increase in the number of codes, reducing coder productivity while demand is increasing. Kforce, RHI, HCTech and Peak Staffing are firms that focus on the medical coder space.

Scribes. A new occupation is also being developed: the scribe, who accompanies the doctor and performs logins and patient record updates. This helps doctors increase their capacity to serve more patients. PhysAssist Scribes and Scribe America are two staffing firms specializing in this niche.

Case managers. As managed care has become a more important part of the healthcare landscape to improve outcomes and help lower costs, it has increased and created positions in the payer and provider communities for case managers. Case managers manage and guide medical cases on behalf of the hospitals and insurance companies. They are critical in keeping patients on track through their treatments.

Excellent Prospects

There are tremendous opportunities to service this fast-growth staffing segment given the dozens of double-digit growth categories to focus on. But staffing firms should pick their focus wisely. They will need to develop strategies to serve public versus private institutions, urban versus rural, as well as determine if they will play the in the VMS and MSP game.

In addition, RPO is an emerging opportunity in the last five years in the healthcare recruitment market. Firms such as AMN, Cielo and Supplemental Health Care are leading the way in this high margin compliment to staffing. Staffing firms that want to get in need to proceed cautiously.

Tough Challenges

Building a pipeline of orders is typically the easier part of the staffing equation. Filling them with qualified, fully credentialed providers and professionals is the tougher part. Almost every provider in the IT and professional category faces an unemployment rate of less than 2%, which implies a severe labor shortage. At the same time, the market is trying to squeeze costs out of the system and putting tension on bill rates. Staffing firms will also be faced with higher temp wage rates.

Having clear strategies for wage and bill rate management is critical. Additionally, a robust engine to recruit and retain talent is a must. In healthcare staffing, more so than many categories of staffing, firms will spend a lot of time figuring out how to keep the talent deployed in the longest and most efficient manner possible.