As the economy rebounds, the unemployment picture brightens with evidence of trend data provided by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And while it may be quite some time before it is business as usual again, things are looking promising for the rest of the economy. That is, until I read that demand for healthcare practitioners dipped in March according to data released late last week by research association, The Conference Board.
Health practitioners and technical occupations dropped by 18,800 in March to 578,100, resulting mostly from fewer advertisements in registered nursing, occupational therapy, speech pathology and physical therapy. However, jobs continue to outnumber practitioners looking for jobs, as the ratio of advertised vacancies to job seekers stands at 2.41 to 1.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted last year that healthcare jobs will grow the fastest of all industries by 2020, with healthcare practitioners and technical occupations rising 25.9 percent between 2010 and 2020. Conference Board announcement and now there are signs the sector is moving the other way.
The behavior of heath care providers cutting back on job advertisements in wake of an increasing demand is a very curious observation. It may possibly be a symptom related to the market basket freeze referenced by my colleague, Darlene, in her recent blog. Is it possible healthcare is cutting back on the investment in practitioner resources as a going lean strategy? Salary and related employee costs known as the employee burden rate is the single largest component of a provider’s expense and historically was an easy target for cutting expenses. Nevertheless, when demand for what practitioners do is increasingly cutting back and freezing market basket values, it can only mean fewer people will receive the care they require; the social issue contributing to the recent change in CMS leadership.
Face it, business as usual is no longer affordable in healthcare. Moreover, it is up to each of us to be more innovative in figuring out where to reduce cost and improve quality of the service we provide; it does not appear to be happening with policy makers or those charged with our healthcare budget management. Managing healthcare costs and value will require more of a team effort than currently applied and success will depend upon enterprise strategies rather than silo focused tactics.