Recent employment releases, while generally positive, belie a systemic problem in the health care labor market: How will health systems, payers and other providers possibly find enough of the right people to deliver the care their patients expect?
ADP released its February jobs report earlier on Wednesday. Health care services, which include providers, added 38,600 jobs net of separations, slightly above the three-month moving average.
However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care and social assistance sector, as defined by the BLS, reported over 1.2 million job openings through December (the last month for which that data set is available). Assuming no employers open new positions, we would need almost three years of similarly robust hiring to fill those openings. Intuition and the data below suggest that providers will continue to open new positions.
Even the optimistic scenario of flat job openings avoids the larger question—where will these people come from? Labor force participation is rising and while we have not recovered to pre-Great Recession levels, we are back to those of the late 70s and early 80s.
Factors such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services more aggressively pushing value-based care-related reforms, aging populations and the increasingly high bar of patient expectations are forcing participants in the health care ecosystem to do more with fewer people. The only long-term solution to alleviate this systemic problem is to deploy carefully considered technology solutions. Participants must increase the productivity of the people they have, and of those they can hire. The alternative is to wait for millions of qualified people to magically appear in the labor force.