March 30, 2012

4 Areas Where Hospital Employment is Expected to Boom

by Molly Gamble

In 2010, the government predicted 3.2 million new jobs in healthcare between 2008 and 2018 — more than any other industry. Part of the growth is driven by aging baby boomers, but there are also other forces at work. For example, a portion of these jobs will be positions that did not exist in healthcare five or 10 years ago.

Accountable/preventive care
Jena Abernathy, vice president of national executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, said the shift toward pay-for-performance and accountable care has helped spur job growth for wellness coaches, nutritionists and other jobs focused on preventive care. “With organizations that are either taking their own path towards accountable care, or partnering to have accountable care organizations, we’re seeing the onset of a lot of positions that are very wellness-oriented,” says Ms. Abernathy. While candidates for wellness coach positions generally don’t need MDs, they must have extensive experience in wellness, such as therapy, nutrition and fitness — suggesting a new value for these types of backgrounds in the industry.

And what about hospitals with ACOs? Ms. Abernathy said most organizations aren’t yet hiring people specifically to oversee the model, but she also noted that it’s early on in the game. “People are still struggling with what [an ACO] is,” she says. “[Oversight is] either falling under the CMO. Or, if organizations are setting up clinically integrated networks, then the president of CIN for that may lead the [hospital’s] efforts around the ACO future.”

Data and technology
As pay-for-performance continues to become healthcare’s modus operandi, hospitals’ reliance on data, metrics and information technology is only expected to grow. Witt/Kieffer reported an increase of roughly 40 percent in healthcare IT searches over the last year. Jobs in these fields will continue to proliferate, according to Ms. Abernathy, since measuring performance and improvement will determine a hospital’s bottom line. “Hospitals have so much data today. It’s about understanding which indicators they need to focus on, and which metrics they’ll be rewarded for if they demonstrate improvement. You’ve got to have people who can manage and interpret that data,” she says.

Aside from data analysis jobs, hospitals still need people who can implement electronic health records, telemedicine infrastructures and various other technological platforms. These positions are about more than installing software — the team is ultimately trying to successfully integrate technology with an entire organization’s workflow. It’s a difficult job, and hospitals are likely to place more emphasis on filling these positions with the right candidates.

Patient satisfaction
Hospitals are also putting more labor behind patient satisfaction efforts, an increasingly significant aspect of the healthcare business. “As consumerism has dictated, people expect much more transparency in terms of understanding [hospital] costs. Hospitals have to create methods to not only market their products but also communicate those services,” says Ms. Abernathy.

Positions like medical communication specialists, who speak about services and costs in plain language, are becoming more relevant as hospitals increase transparency and are more cognizant of patient satisfaction scores. Hospitals may also hire more employees to guide patients throughout the healthcare continuum. In a system that can leave patients confused and overwhelmed, these employees assist with finding specialists and making appointments — a role dually linked to patient satisfaction and preventive care.

A new preferred candidate for the C-Suite: physicians
When it comes to the hospital C-suite, boards are increasingly seeking physicians to fill executive roles. Witt/Kieffer reported a 54 percent in physician executive searches overall and a 152 percent increase in CMO searches within the past year. “In the past CEO searches I’ve been part of, the boards have specifically requested we have a physician candidate as an option,” says Ms. Abernathy. This is an industry shift, as hospitals went through an era when they were more interested in a candidate’s financial experience and often sought CEOs with CFO backgrounds. Now, the shift towards value-based healthcare has rearranged some priorities and placed emphasis on a physician’s skill sets and experience.

“In clinical settings, physicians are so close to quality improvement initiatives, evidence-based medicine and pay-for-performance because they’ve been so close to the patient. So there’s a migration towards physician executives who have strong business backgrounds,” says Ms. Abernathy. Aside from the CEO and CMO, hospitals also want physicians for chief quality officers and chief medical ethics officers.

Healthcare is a dynamic industry, in which it can sometimes feel as if change is the only constant. An overwhelming amount of information floods administrators on a daily basis, and there is simply not enough time to take it all in. Nonetheless, it is vitally important for early careerists and more experienced individuals alike to adapt to the transforming environment. Identifying and understanding trends is key, but this is easier said than done. Developing a plan to filter relevant information and utilize appropriate sources is necessary. As the great Peter Drucker said, “Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Gaining the knowledge most pertinent to personal career goals can help facilitate career advancement.Having a plan
Creating a career development plan outlining future goals must be the first step if you do not already have one. This plan should include strengths and weaknesses to help understand where your talents lie. Being able to use and grow your strengths is a key to success. Having a plan for how to acquire the knowledge you will need to cultivate these assets is easy to overlook, but is just as important. Personalizing how you stay current with your professional goals will help to narrow your focus on the vast array of resources available. Once a plan is in place, you can concentrate on topics related to your areas of interest. Information gathered should be relevant to both your career and your organization. Gaining knowledge that adds value should always be a priority. This will allow you to stay current and informed without wasting precious time on non-essential reading.Making the commitment
Staying current and up to date must be a daily commitment, which is often a task valued in theory and forgotten in practice. This is why you should devote at least 15 minutes every day to reading about current trends in your industry. It can be tough to allocate any amount of free time due to busy schedules, but it will pay off in the end. Specifying a certain time of the day for reading may help, such during a daily commute or immediately after lunch each day. The key is making the commitment. Many successful individuals spend much more than 15 minutes every day staying current. As you grow more familiar with the process, attempt to increase your daily dosage of reading material. You may also find opportunities to catch up on heavier reading while waiting at the airport or when stuck at the dentist’s office. Maintaining a file of earmarked articles for future reading can aid this process for some. But for others, this may cause reading material to simply accumulate and go unread. Developing a system that works for you is the best strategy. Still, this should be in addition to a daily routine of reading which serves not only as a source of valuable information but also as a reminder to look outward and ahead.Sources for national issues and developments
Keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry at a national level is important. It is easy to find all of your attention focused on your local market, but this can be detrimental to your organization and career. Looming federal policy changes, for example, can have a direct impact. The reliance of healthcare on constantly evolving technologies mandates continual learning for administrators. Innovation is often inspired from external sources, sometimes even from other industries. According to Peter Drucker, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” While his statement aptly describes entrepreneurs, it also highlights the importance of foresight and adaptation. Awareness of industry-wide issues and developments is crucial to contending in a competitive market.

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