Healthcare refers to the organized provision of medical care to people and communities. By that definition, healthcare careers do not just include doctors, nurses, and other frontline clinicians who often come to mind first when people think of healthcare jobs. Administrators, therapists, chiropractors, paramedics, and technology professionals all have a place in helping people live well.Due to its size and diversity, healthcare welcomes new professionals with many different skills, interests, and personalities. In general, people who work in this sector have hearts to serve others and intellectual interests in math and science.Some healthcare professions require many years of formal education. Anesthesiologists, surgeons, and ophthalmologists, for instance, need up to 12 years of higher education. However, other healthcare professionals need only a few months to start their careers. Students can earn certifications in high-demand fields such as EKG tech and cardio-phlebotomy tech in about 10-21 weeks. Prospective healthcare professionals can learn more about careers and degrees in the field.
Healthcare professionals enjoy opportunities in clinical work, therapy, leadership, and public health. Responsibilities, activities, and pay grades vary tremendously, meaning the industry welcomes new professionals with diverse skill sets. The chart below introduces some of the jobs healthcare professionals can pursue.
These are the doctors, nurses, and assistants who work with patients to diagnose and treat health issues. They often provide preventative care to help patients maintain good health. A few examples of clinical specializations include the following:
Therapy and Rehabilitation
These services help patients recover their independence after an injury, illness, or surgery. Here are some main focus areas:
If you want to help people and have a knack for leadership, healthcare administration could be a great career choice. According to the Healthcare Leadership Alliance, there are five main areas of expertise in this field:
Medical practice administration
Healthcare financial management
Healthcare information management
While careers in clinical healthcare treat individual patients, public health professionals focus on groups. Public health studies the well-being of populations and communities as a whole. Most jobs in this field require at least a master’s degree. There are five traditional core disciplines in a public health master’s program:
Environmental health sciences
Health policy and management
Social and behavioral sciences
Benefits of a Career in Healthcare
Healthcare is a high-demand field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare is the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. The BLS projects that healthcare jobs will grow 14% from 2018-2028.
Healthcare is also a high-paying field. In the BLS’ list of the 20 top-paying professions, 16 came from the healthcare industry. Some of the highest-paid Americans work as surgeons, dentists, midwives, podiatrists, and pharmacists. Even massage therapists, licensed practical nurses, and health information technicians can still earn more than the average employee.
For many people, salaries and job growth take a backseat to the question of job satisfaction. Most healthcare workers find their professions fulfilling, interesting, and satisfying. According to data from the Pew Research Institute, 62% of healthcare professionals said they derived a sense of identity from their jobs.
The Future of Healthcare
As the fastest-growing occupational group, healthcare should add 1.9 million jobs by 2028. Demographic trends such as aging, chronic disease prevalence, and infrastructure development affect how fast the healthcare industry keeps accelerating, as does technology.
According to a study by Deloitte, healthcare providers will soon work with technology such as 5G to support massive digitalization, artificial intelligence to improve diagnostics, and big data analytics to uncover patient patterns and correlations. Robotics, new industrial sensors connected through the internet of things, blockchain technology, and the internet of medical things will also transform the way healthcare professionals provide and manage care.
Though a rapidly transforming and expanding industry, healthcare is also a stable one. Geopolitical events and trends may affect the sector, but ultimately, humans need healthcare. So while shifts in technology or growth trends may occur, the overall industry should remain stable and robust.
The pressure on our sprawling healthcare system in the U.S. has never been greater. There’s an urgent need to expand testing and treatment for COVID-19 to all residents who need it, regardless of health insurance status. Massive federal cash influxes have sought to shore up hospitals sagging under the weight of the coronavirus burden and the related cessation of elective surgery and regular medical care.
Long before this crisis, the U.S. led other industrialized nations in high spending on healthcare and getting a low bang for the buck in terms of health outcomes and the percentage of the population served. Life expectancy in the U.S., for example, is 78.8 years, while it ranges from 80.7 to 83.9 in 10 other high-income countries, according to an influential study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). And only 90% of the population in the U.S. has health insurance, compared to 99% to 100% of the population in the other industrialized countries examined.
COVID-19 has increased pressure on our highly complex and expensive healthcare system, making it more urgent to lower costs.
One reason for high costs is administrative waste. Providers face a huge array of usage and billing requirements from multiple payers, which makes it necessary to hire costly administrative help for billing and reimbursements.
Americans pay almost four times as much for pharmaceutical drugs as citizens of other developed countries.
Hospitals, doctors, and nurses all charge more in the U.S. than in other countries, with hospital costs increasing much faster than professional salaries.
In other countries, prices for drugs and healthcare are at least partially controlled by the government. In the U.S. prices depend on market forces.
Costly Healthcare Hurts Everyone
The high cost of healthcare affects everyone, sick or well. It has depressed individual spending power for the past few decades. Salaries for American workers have risen, but net pay has stayed the same because of increasing charges for health insurance.Today, tightening up on overspending is urgent to help stretch medical and hospital resources to control COVID-19.
Here are six underlying reasons for the high cost of healthcare in the U.S.
Multiple Systems Create Waste
“Administrative” costs are frequently cited as a cause for excess medical spending. The U.S. spends about 8% of its healthcare dollar on administrative costs, compared to 1% to 3% in the 10 other countries the JAMA study looked at.
The U.S. healthcare system is extremely complex, with separate rules, funding, enrollment dates, and out-of-pocket costs for employer-based insurance, private insurance from healthcare.gov, Medicaid, and Medicare, in all its many pieces. In each of these sectors consumers must choose among several tiers of coverage, high deductible plans, managed care plans (HMOs and PPOs) and fee-for-service systems. These plans may or may not include pharmaceutical drug insurance which has its own tiers of coverage, deductibles, and copays or coinsurance.
For providers, this means dealing with myriad regulations about usage, coding, and billing. And, in fact, these activities make up the largest share of administrative costs.
Drug Costs Are Rising
On average, Americans shell out almost four times as much for pharmaceutical drugs as citizens of other industrialized countries pay. High drug prices are the single biggest area of overspending in the U.S. compared to Europe, where drug prices are government regulated, often based on the clinical benefit of the medication.
With little regulation of drug prices, the U.S. spends an average of $1,443 per person, compared to $749, on average, spent by the other prosperous countries studied. In the U.S. private insurers can negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, often through the services of pharmacy benefit managers. However, Medicare, which pays for a hefty percentage of the national drug costs, is not permitted to negotiate prices with manufacturers.
Doctors (and Nurses) Are Paid More
The average U.S. family doctor earns $218,173 a year, and specialists make $316,000—way above the the average in other industrialized countries. American nurses make considerably more than elsewhere, too. The average salary for a U.S. nurse is about $74,250, compared to $58,041 in Switzerland and $60,253 in the Netherlands.
U.S. managed care plans (HMOs and PPOs) may succeed in lowering healthcare costs by requiring prior authorization for seeing a high-priced specialist. Use of a nurse practitioner instead of a family doctor can also save money.
Hospitals Are Profit Centers
Hospital care accounts for 33% of the nation’s healthcare costs. Between 2007 and 2014, prices for inpatient and outpatient hospital care rose much faster than physician prices, according to a 2019 study in Health Affairs. U.S. prices for surgical procedures in hospitals greatly exceed those of other countries. A typical angioplasty to open a blocked blood vessel, for example, costs $6,390 in the Netherlands, $7,370 in Switzerland, and $32,230 in the United States. Similarly, a heart bypass operation in the U.S. costs $78,100 compared to $32,010 in Switzerland.
Today, many hospitals are on the brink financially. What's more, the cessation of elective surgery and severely declining provider visits because of the coronavirus lockdown account for a big part of the decline in the overall economy.
U.S. Healthcare Practices Defensive Medicine
Both physicians and hospitals have an interest in preventing lawsuits, so “just in case” tests and scans may be ordered. And these tests can be costly! While a CT scan costs just $97 in Canada and $500 in Australia, the average cost is $896 in the U.S. A typical MRI scan costs $1,420 in the United States, but around $450 in Britain. Researchers have concluded that it’s not the sheer number of tests and procedures but their high price that explains why it’s so expensive to be sick in the U.S.
U.S. Prices Vary Wildly
Because of the complexity of the system and the lack of any set prices for medical services, providers are free to charge what the market will bear. The amount paid for the same healthcare service can vary significantly depending on the payer (i.e. private insurance or government programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid) and geographical area. For COVID-19, for example, the cost of an urgent care visit and lab tests averages $1,696, but can range from a low of $241 to a high of $4,510 depending on the provider.
The range of home health care services a patient can receive at home is limitless. Depending on the individual patient's situation, care can range from nursing care to specialized medical services, such as laboratory workups. You and your doctor will determine your care plan and services you may need at home. At-home care services may include:
A doctor may visit a patient at home to diagnose and treat the illness(es). He or she may also periodically review the home health care needs.
The most common form of home health care is some type of nursing care depending on the person's needs. In consultation with the doctor, a registered nurse will set up a plan of care. Nursing care may include wound dressing, ostomy care, intravenous therapy, administering medication, monitoring the general health of the patient, pain control, and other health support.
Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy
Some patients may need help relearning how to perform daily duties or improve their speech after an illness or injury. A physical therapist can put together a plan of care to help a patient regain or strengthen use of muscles and joints. An occupational therapist can help a patient with physical, developmental, social, or emotional disabilities relearn how to perform such daily functions as eating, bathing, dressing, and more. A speech therapist can help a patient with impaired speech regain the ability to communicate clearly.
Medical social services
Medical social workers provide various services to the patient, including counseling and locating community resources to help the patient in his or her recovery. Some social workers are also the patient's case manager--if the patient's medical condition is very complex and requires coordination of many services.
Care from home health aides
Home health aides can help the patient with his or her basic personal needs such as getting out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing. Some aides have received specialized training to assist with more specialized care under the supervision of a nurse.
Homemaker or basic assistance care
While a patient is being medically cared for in the home, a homemaker or person who helps with chores or tasks can maintain the household with meal preparation, laundry, grocery shopping, and other housekeeping items.
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