Report: Soaring demand to grow healthcare workforce in coming years

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Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the demand for healthcare workers will grow at double the rate of the national economy over the next eight years and 5.6 million new jobs will be created, according to a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study also showed the demand for postsecondary education in healthcare will grow faster than any other field except STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and education. Of the new healthcare jobs to be added by 2020, 82 percent—4.6 million—will require postsecondary education and training, according to the report authors.

"In healthcare, there are really two labor markets: professional and support," Anthony P. Carnevale, the director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce and the report's lead author, said in a release. He added there is minimal mobility between the two markets and the pay gap is large. “The average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker."

While the PPACA stands to add more than 30 million people to health insurances rolls, demand for healthcare workers will vary more as a result of location, according to the report. One-in-five Americans live in rural areas, but only 9 percent of physicians practice in rural areas. Doctors are passing on rural opportunities due to insufficient insurance payments, administrative hassles related to insurance claims and rising business and malpractice insurance costs, according to Howard Rabinowitz, MD, of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who was cited in the report.

“It’s hard to estimate overall shortages in such an unproductive environment, but it’s abundantly clear that rural and underserved areas will experience shortages, while prestigious specializations in medical care will continue to flourish on the east and west coasts,” wrote the authors. “These challenges are crucial to governments, employers and the American family.”

The authors pointed out that a few sub-groups of healthcare occupations are especially likely to grow, including technologists trained in the latest developments on diagnostic and surgical technology. “Technology is particularly important in the fields of cardiovascular surgery, radiology and nuclear medicine…As technology continues to change and diagnostic techniques become more complex, it’s likely that the education requirements for these jobs will also increase,” wrote the authors.

Another group whose role will have increased importance, according to the report, is medical records and health information technicians who must manage the growing avalanche of data providers are collecting every day.

The full report, along with a state-by-state analysis, is available here.