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The State of Healthcare 2019: Talent Shortages, Innovation, and Uncertainty

by Oscar Hernandez

April 10, 2019


healthcare industry talent shortage


While the healthcare industry is an exciting one to be a part of, it’s also a volatile sector that is evolving rapidly. Given the change underway, it comes as no surprise that people are worried. A Gallup poll shows that 55% of Americans are greatly concerned about healthcare, making it their #1 concern over homelessness, the environment, and even terrorism.



Many of these individuals are concerned about their own personal healthcare services, but there is no doubt that organizations looking to hire healthcare workers can be counted among that number. Premiums are high, the number of talented healthcare professionals is low, and other factors add up to an industry seeking a new identity in 2019.


Wanted: Healthcare Talent

Healthcare workers encompass a vast number of different roles, the majority of which are not even physician positions. Consider paramedics and EMTs, currently one of the highest in demand with 37,400 jobs expected to be added in the next seven years. Likewise, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physical therapy assistants are set to see a 30% increase in demand through 2026. Overall, half of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. are in healthcare.



Strong demand is a good thing, but only when there are skilled individuals who can fill the roles. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate in healthcare is 2.5%, and when looking at roles in hospitals only, it’s a stark 1%. Such low levels represent full employment and make it nearly impossible to hire for open positions. Since healthcare is a highly regulated industry and tied to legislature, insurance specifications, and other factors, traditional hiring strategies don’t always apply in this sector.


Healthcare Costs Continue to Rise

It’s impossible to check the pulse of healthcare in America without taking a look at infamously rising healthcare costs. Over $10,000 is spent on each individual every year, making nearly half of Americans concerned that a major health event will leave them bankrupt. In retirement, as people live longer and require healthcare longer in life, costs are even higher: a couple retiring right now would need an average of $285,000 to cover their remaining healthcare costs.



In other industries, when the cost of a product or service goes up, it might mean more money for those providing the service. In healthcare, that isn’t so. With costs so high, many put off maintaining their own health and avoid preventative checkups, physicals, etc. They get sick to a point where there’s no choice but to go in for care, face astronomical costs, and fail to pay them. Everyone loses in this model, one where even the FDA Commissioner is appalled at such high prescription drug prices. While there’s no simple solution, it’s an area being targeted more and more by the government and the public, and requires keeping an eye on for anyone operating in the industry.


Innovation Is Reshaping Healthcare

At the local level, nearly everything in a healthcare setting relies on some sort of computer program or piece of technology. This has created a crossover with the IT industry, where tech pros who can build, maintain, and troubleshoot vital systems are sought after by healthcare organizations, which compounds the skills shortage across healthcare.


However, the big picture view provides more promise and reveals groundbreaking innovations hitting the industry on a regular basis. Healthcare startups raised $6.8 billion in the first three months of 2019. Such companies are revolutionizing the providing of healthcare through things like robotic surgery, biotech innovations, and so much more. UPS has is starting to deliver medical supplies with drones, while Microsoft is introducing augmented reality in surgery.



Many advancements have come in response to the 8,000 people who die each year waiting for an organ transplant. With 36,529 transplants in the U.S. last year (a 20% increase over the last five years) and 114,000 people on the organ transplant list, there is both a problem and opportunity in this area. Companies are using 3D printing to fabricate organs, learning how to heal damaged organs, and looking at cross-species transplants. With rising obesity and diabetes rates leading to kidney and liver failure at younger ages, startups are seeking to make a big difference.


Evolving Healthcare Laws

Governed tightly by legislature, healthcare is an industry where evolving laws have a profound impact. Three specific healthcare laws are set to see the most discussion in the coming year:




HIPAA was created to protect people’s sensitive health information, but that means something very different today than it did when the law went into effect over 20 years ago. Data is produced by nearly every interaction now, and it’s being stored digitally. While some environments have come a long way to become HIPAA compliant, there is still much controversy over wearables like smartwatches, data breaches going undetected for great lengths of time, and Electronic Health Records being sold on the black market for $1,000 each. With over 15 million patient records breached last year alone, expect to see lawmakers modify HIPAA for the modern age.




The Affordable Care Act has stayed in the news cycle ever since it was first proposed, becoming a highly politicized topic. There seems to be more confusion on this law than any other, with the Supreme Court and federal judges unable to agree on it themselves. No matter what happens with the ACA, there will be ripple effects throughout the healthcare industry. As news cycles go into overdrive leading up to the 2020 election cycle, expect increased attention and proposals here.


Medicinal Marijuana & CBD


Regardless of one’s personal opinions, it’s undeniable that marijuana legalization is spreading. 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, have approved medical marijuana programs. This represents a large and still growing niche within healthcare that is in relative infancy. It’s changing the way doctors prescribe while causing an increased need for healthcare talent to serve the medical marijuana sector. Specifically, expect to see an increase in hemp-derived CBD usage.


Amazon Will Shake Up the Healthcare Industry

In the midst of tremendous activity in healthcare, Amazon is throwing their hat into the ring. They view the industry moving away from high-barrier environments like traditional hospitals and more toward outpatient treatment. Given Amazon’s size and clout, they are acquiring other healthcare startups and making the industry’s talent pool even shallower. Even if their endeavor into healthcare ultimately fails, Amazon will shake up the industry for the next several years.


Stigmas Are Fading


Not that long ago, talking about mental illness, suicide, and substance abuse seemed taboo. Issues were brushed under the rug until they reached critical and deadly points. As a result, 130 people die of opioid drug overdoses each day, while suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for our nation’s youth. Millions are affected by drugs and mental illness while their related financial burdens are counted in the billions, and yet, there is good news: stigmas surrounding these topics are fading. People are discussing these issues more than ever and seeking treatment earlier. It’s positive, but does put added strain on a short-staffed healthcare system.



The State of Healthcare in 2019

The healthcare field has been evolving for centuries, showing no signs of slowing down. Advancements in technology, shifting laws, and many other factors will change the sector as we know it. Along the way, the demand for talent in every corner of healthcare will increase. While that presents difficulties for many, for those able to secure trained healthcare professionals, it’s a rewarding time to be in the industry.


IntellaPro staffs a vast number of healthcare roles. When you need medical assistants, nurses, and more, we can help.



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