By Marcia Faller, RN, PhD, AMN Healthcare Chief Clinical Officer
The shift from inpatient to outpatient care is ramping up, and it’s creating a big impact on hospitals and health systems – and on healthcare staffing and workforce solutions. This sea change in healthcare will rise with the tide in coming years.
The latest spur to outpatient care is an Obama administration proposal to increase by 2.1 percent the Medicare payments to hospitals for outpatient care. This is part of the nationwide effort to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, thereby controlling costs.
In 2013, Medicare paid approximately $37 billion for outpatient treatment and $139 billion for admissions. The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed cutting payments for admissions to hospitals by about $241 million next year. While a 2.1% increase in outpatient payments and some cuts in admission payments won’t quickly reverse the inpatient-outpatient payment ratio, the direction in which our national healthcare system is heading is very clear. Everybody should expect a continuing funding shift year by year to outpatient care.
The change for the healthcare workforce will be significant and already is being felt. New workforce roles have emerged, while traditional outpatient care is expanding. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projections call for double-digit employment increases in many areas of therapy, as health systems seek to heal people outside of hospitals or keep them healthy so they don’t need to be readmitted.
A quick Google of “health coordinator” turns up tens of thousands of help-wanted ads. This role, little known a decade ago, seeks to coordinate patient care in a hundred different settings and specialties, mostly to arrange treatment outside of hospital walls. Health and wellness coaching and education are other fast-growing roles for health systems, medical groups and health services vendors. The main mission of these professionals is to keep people healthy and out of the hospital.
In a recent Bloomberg article
on rising Medicare payments for outpatient care, an expert on healthcare investing said that “…for acute-care hospitals who haven’t figured out they need to bolster their outpatient activities, it’s going to be a problem.”
The same could be said for the healthcare staffing and workforce solutions industry. A growing responsibility will be helping hospitals and health systems hold the line on admissions, both by supplying and training those professionals needed for outpatient care and by finding innovative management solutions to transition away from fee-for-service and toward keeping patients healthy. For clinicians themselves, and those considering careers in healthcare, new and very rewarding opportunities beckon.