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The Booming Business of Health Care

February 15, 2016

Is the industry’s incredible growth in need of a check-up?

The health care industry added nearly a half million jobs in 2015 – in part a result of the Affordable Care Act. With more people covered for health insurance, there is an increased demand for health care services.  The new jobs that are being created to meet that demand run the gamut from managerial to clinical positions to accommodate the growing covered population.

According to Michelle Sahl, associate teaching professor in the Health Administration Department, the growth is good – especially for CNHP graduates – but to sustain it, a national shift in attitude and spending is a must.

“Our health care system has for a century or more been based strictly on a medical model of care, which means we do a top-notch job of curing what ails you and providing therapeutic services for people who are sick, but not as good a job at preventing illness and keeping people well,” said Sahl. The impact over time has dramatically increased the rate of health care expenditure growth in the U.S. to such an extent that it’s not sustainable for the long term.  The health care sector currently represents one out of every six dollars of our Gross Domestic Product, which is being supported, in part, by our growing national debt. “There’s an enormous amount of societal resources that go to just the healthcare sector alone,” she added.

As a country, we have a lot of eggs in the basket of health care in terms of dollars spent and people in the workforce, which isn’t necessarily problematic. “A healthy populous is a productive populous, but you can get a healthy populous by keeping people healthy at the outset and placing more dollars on holistic, preventive, and primary care rather than what we do currently – that is, putting most of our dollars into acute or tertiary care to fix what’s wrong with you versus preventing it early on,” said Sahl. She notes that by continuing to focus on that model of care, costs will only continue to escalate.

A potential solution is on the horizon and the industry is buzzing about it, but it will take a change in the behavior and the approach to health care at both the clinical and C-suite level.  If we redirect our focus toward lower cost primary and preventive care -- utilizing more professionals like nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physical therapists -- we create the potential to spend less on long-term debilitating illnesses.

If not, Sahl warned, “Our health care industry and the broader national economy will be jeopardized. We can’t continue on this path – what will we have to cut out if, or when, our GDP gets to the point that we are using one out of every five dollars on health care? Environmental services?  Education? Infrastructure?  For many of those things, we’ve already been cutting programs to too large an extent.”

The change needs to come in utilizing health care workers directly within the neighborhoods and communities where they can promote wellness and diagnosis illness at the earliest stages. “ Community health centers – like our Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services -- are going to be more in demand and funding is being allocated. I imagine that hospitals will become more and more the centers of tertiary care – the highest level of care,” Sahl forecasted.

She also predicts that there will be more jobs for managers supporting elder care in nonprofits or advocacy organizations to integrate social services and health care services to better plan for the aging population.  That integration is appealing for many populations as a means of improving health outcomes while managing costs

Needs are evolving, and there is no shortage of job opportunities in health care or for graduates of the Health Administration Program – there are even brand new positions being created to help guide the population in their care choices.  Sahl said, “With each additional piece of legislation, the health care arena becomes more complex. Few people can fully understand it, so over the last five years or so there’s been a new niche that’s popped up in health care called health care “navigators.” That’s exactly what these people do –they work with individuals to help them ‘navigate the healthcare landscape’ and understand how and where to get high quality services, and offer guidance in how to function within our currently complex and fragmented health care system.”