iLoveBenefits: Industry News Blog

Healthcare Jobs and Spending Growth Trends


Altarum Institute recently released a Health Sector Economic Indicators brief highlighting the growth surge in the health services sector. Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Over the past 6 months, healthcare has added 226,000 jobs, the largest increase in 25 years.
  • Health job growth now exceeds nonhealth job growth at 2.7% annual growth versus 2.1% annual growth.
  • Health care prices in March 2015 were 1.3% higher than in March 2014 and hospital prices rose 0.4%.
  • Physician and clinical services prices fell 0.6% and prescription drug prices rose 5.7% last year.
  • National health spending in March 2015 was 6.8% higher than in March 2014.
  • At $3.2 trillion, health spending now represents 18.1% of gross domestic product.

Source: Altarum Institute, May 13, 2015

Hosptial Nurse Staffing Linked to Reduced Adverse Events and Lower LOS

Increases in hospital nurse staffing levels are associated with reductions in adverse events and lengths of stay and do not lead to increased costs, a longitudinal study by AHRQ concluded. Researchers also found that increasing the number of registered nurses, as opposed to other nursing positions, led to reduced costs. The authors linked hospital nurse staffing data to AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) State Inpatient Databases from California, Maryland and Nevada between 2008 and 2011 to estimate the causal relationship between nurse staffing (level and skill mix), quality (adverse events as measured by nurse-sensitive patient safety indicators), lengths of stay and cost. The findings suggest that increased staffing of registered nurses can improve patient outcomes and efficiency. “Examining the Value of Inpatient Nurse Staffing: An Assessment of Quality and Patient Care Costs” and the abstract appeared in the November issue of Medical Care. Authors included AHRQ’s H. Joanna Jiang, Ph.D., and Carol Stocks, Ph.D., R.N.

More students enroll in medical school that ever before

The Association of American Medical Colleges released new data that find more students are enrolled in medical school than ever before.  “The number of students who enrolled in the nation’s medical schools for the first time in 2014 has reached a new high, totaling 20,343, according to data released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).  The total number of applicants to medical school also rose by 3.1 percent, to a record 49,480.  First-time applicants—an important indicator of interest in medicine—increased by 2.7 percent to 36,697.”

Did you ever wonder if you asked other professions similar question?

29% of MDs would not choose Medicine if they had their Careers to do over

According to the Physicians Foundation:

  • 81% of physicians describe themselves as either overextended or at full capacity.
  • 44% of physicians plan to take one or more steps that would reduce patient access to their services.
  • 72% of physicians believe there is a physician shortage.
  • 35% of physicians describe themselves as independent practice owners.
  • 53% of physicians describe themselves as hospital or medical group employees.

Note: Survey conduced on behalf of the Physicians Foundation by Merritt Hawkins. Completed September, 2014. Based on over 20,000 survey responses.

Source: Physicians Foundation

Health spending in July 2014 “grew 4.3% over July 2013, bringing the year-to-date increase to 4.4%

Altarum Institute found that health spending in July 2014 “grew 4.3% over July 2013, bringing the year-to-date increase to 4.4%. This is well above the 3.6% growth rate estimated for 2013 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and, with further acceleration expected in the final two quarters, puts 2014 on track to be the first year since 2008 in which growth has exceeded 4%.  Health care gained a strong 34,000 jobs in August, and revisions to June and July showed a net increase of 15,500 jobs. And health care prices in August 2014 were 1.7% higher than in August 2013, similar to the rates reported for April through June, but roughly half a percentage point higher than for the first quarter of 2014.”

Enlarging the definition of the Primary Care Workforce is Critical

Geographic Distribution of Primary Care Workforce

Nurse practitioners Physician assistants Family physicians/GPs General internal medicine General pediatrics U.S. population
Urban 72.20% 75.10% 77.50% 89.80% 91.20% 80%
Large rural 11.00% 11.70% 11.10% 6.70% 6.20% 10%
Small rural 7.70% 6.90% 7.20% 2.40% 1.80% 5%
Remote rural 9.10% 6.30% 4.20% 1.10% 0.80% 5%

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Doctors Found Sanctioned for Negligence by the NYS Dept. of Health Allowed to Continue to Practice

According to The New York Public Interest Research Group, over three-quarters of doctors found sanctioned for negligence by the New York State Department of Health are allowed to continue to practice. Nearly 60% of New York State actions against doctors were based on sanctions taken by other states, the federal government, or the courts, not directly as the result of an Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC)-initiated investigation. One of the arguments as to why New York State does not revoke questionable doctors’  licenses is that they are an important resource. However, over the past ten years, New York’s population has grown by about 2%. Its doctor population has swelled by 36%.

Source: The New York Public Interest Research Group

Health care hiring slows

Healthcare, an engine of employment through the recession, shed 6,000 jobs in December with payroll declines in ambulatory care and hospitals.

The drop comes at the end of a year in which healthcare hiring flagged, adding a below average number of jobs, new figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. Healthcare added 271,000 jobs last year to bring the industry’s total to 14.57 million. Hiring fell about 2% below the annual average since 1990.

The trend in hospitals is down, the trend in outpatient employment is up. In good times, there was likely over hiring. Now as times get leaner for the health care industry they will need to adjust like every other industry. They will need tools such as Lean Six Sigma and other process tools to address the need for greater productivity.

What could the other two-thirds of the people want in their healthcare professional. . .

. . . or was it the survey construct?

According to a recent survey, respondents considered the following to be the most important characteristics in the healthcare professional who they see for their main medical needs:

  • ‘knowledgeable’ (37%)
  • ‘up to date when it comes to the latest medical advances and treatments’ (29%)
  • ‘experienced’ (27%)
  • ‘someone you can trust’ ( 27%)

Will new paradigms of delivery address perceived physician and nurse shortages

New ways of delivering health care services will be essential. Unless demand drops, it is unlikely that the supply of nurses and physicians will increase to meet the perceptions.

According to a recent survey of hospital executives:

  • 78% believe there is a shortage of physicians
  • 66% believe there is a shortage of nurses
  • 50% believe there is a shortage of advanced practitioners
  • the reported vacancy rate for physicians in hospitals is 17.6%
  • the reported vacancy rate for nurses in hospitals is 17%

Source: “AMN Healthcare Survey: Hospital Executives See Continued Shortage of Physicians, Nurses and Advanced Practitioners,” AMN Healthcare Press Release, December 12, 2013,

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