An article in Becker’s Hospital Review caught my attention this morning, not specifically because of the topic but rather because of what it portends for the careers of physicians and health IT workers. The article, 10 Concerns and Trends Facing Hospitals Right Now, is a terrific synopsis of everything a hospital CEO should be focused on these days if he or she wants his or her hospital to survive. The concerns range from the growth of high-deductible insurance plans and accountable care organizations to narrow networks and the challenges of staying independent. Indeed, these are important trends worthy of attention. But I was drawn to two specific concerns in the article ( #8 and #9) that actually spell good news for physicians and hospital IT staff, and perhaps even better news for doctors who are skilled in both medicine and information technology.
Concern #8 in the article is Huge Growth in IT Spending. As the article points out, health IT spending exploded in 2014. In a 2014 survey of hospital executives by Premier, nearly half of hospital executives said their largest capital investment over the coming year will be in Health IT. That is certainly not surprising considering the billions of federal dollars flowing into initiatives to digitize the American healthcare system, and I wouldn’t expect hospital and health system investments in IT to falter much even after the federal money begins to wane. With “accountable care” and payment plans based on risk and quality over volume, hospitals will need finely tuned data analytics solutions to stay one step ahead of their competitors. And yes, as the Becker’s article points out, these capital investments will be challenging in the short term but absolutely essential when it comes to long-term gains. Moody’s states that hospitals that invest in information technology and outpatient services are the ones most likely to survive this era of challenging operating conditions.
Concern #9 in the Becker’s article cites Competition for Physicians. It suggests that the huge demand for physicians and the relatively small supply of them (especially in primary care and in rural areas) will make recruiting tough. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a physician shortage of more than 130,000 doctors by 2025, and a study in Health Affairs suggests a doubling in the need for geriatric specialists over the next decade or so. The Becker’s article concludes, “Physicians and health IT staff seem to be the two relative untouchables in a challenging economic environment”.
So, if you are a health IT worker or a physician that’s good news. You may not get rich, but you should expect a reasonably good run for the foreseeable future. If you develop or sell software or IT services for healthcare, you can also expect some good years ahead. And if you happen to be both a skilled physician and a knowledgeable information technologist, the world may be your oyster—at least until the computers (or should I say the machine learning, neural networks in the cloud) get so smart that neither doctors nor information technologists are required anymore.
What do you think?
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft