We have a problem in the healthcare delivery system, a problem that is not being talked about by politicians or industry leaders. What is the problem? It is the clear and colossal juxtaposition between adding more medical jobs and increasing healthcare delivery efficiency. The two cannot coexist on the same plane. However, you would never know it by listening to the utopian prognostications we hear so often.
Until the problem is addressed openly and pragmatically, no real improvements will be made to the business side of healthcare. Costs will continue to go up, service delivery will continue to be inefficient, and patient outcomes will be negatively affected. There really is no way around it.
Efficiency Is a Job Killer
The healthcare industry is remarkable in many aspects, not the least of which is the insistence of its leaders that efficiency can be achieved without sacrificing jobs. Nowhere else in the marketplace of reality is this observable. The truth is that efficiency is a job killer by necessity.
Take the auto industry, for example. In the earliest days of assembly-line manufacturing, plants employed thousands of workers needed to build the numerous components and assemble them for sale and delivery. As one decade transitioned to the next, the efficiency of the assembly line was improved by changing assembly methods and introducing new technologies. The auto manufacturing plant of today utilizes a fraction of its former workforce while producing more vehicles than ever before.
The result of this increased efficiency is higher quality vehicles that cost less money to produce. Does that not sound like what we are trying to achieve in healthcare? For years, we have been trying to reform the healthcare industry in order to make it more efficient while at the same time improving the quality of care. Now we are adding to those efforts by focusing on getting consumers more involved with their own care by taking control of the decision-making process.
If we actually succeed in making healthcare more efficient and cost-effective, the net result would be fewer traditional medical jobs in the marketplace.
Non-Traditional Medical Jobs
Behind closed doors, policymakers are terrified of embracing any sort of efficiency that will cost a local community its healthcare jobs. More often than not, hospitals and healthcare service providers are among the largest employers at the local level. Jeopardizing jobs is not good public relations. Yet being fearful of cutting medical jobs might be the wrong way to look at it.
Again, let us use the auto industry as an example. Increased efficiency did result in the loss of manufacturing jobs on the assembly line. However, it gave rise to a completely new industry of support services. People were needed to design and build the machinery to run the new, more efficient plants. Scientists and researchers were needed to push forward with research and development. New car dealerships were established to head up sales and marketing efforts. In the end, the manufacturing plant’s job losses were the job gains of other businesses.
Medical jobs may be lost in terms of direct patient care with improved delivery efficiency. At the same time, new jobs will be created in medical IT, billing and coding, healthcare administration and many other areas. And that’s the way we have to look at it. We cannot allow a changing landscape of medical jobs to prevent us from embracing efficiency and cost reductions. Otherwise, nothing will truly change.
More medical jobs and increased efficiency is a colossal juxtaposition that needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later. Are there policymakers willing to bring it up?