Training the Health Economics and Outcomes Research Workforce of the Future: Opportunities for Program Development in Colleges and Universities

Training the Health Economics and Outcomes Research Workforce of the Future: Opportunities for Program Development in Colleges and Universities
June 18, 2013 - 12:26 pm, by

The health care landscape in the U.S. has been changing rapidly in the past 20 years, a phase of evolution that began with the reluctance of private employers to continue to fund double-digit growth in employee health care costs, thereby creating incentives for third-party payers to develop “managed” insurance products. The next phase of those changes occurred several years later, as public payers, like Medicare and Medicaid, reached their own cost burden and cost inflation thresholds and began actively searching for ways to contain expenditure growth within the legislative constraints of the programs.

One important byproduct of these changes was the need for new skills for healthcare workers, possessing knowledge of the complex institutions of the health industry, the role of third-party payers, the role of government and regulation, and the challenges of bringing “business thinking” to an industry and a profession accustomed to self-management and self-regulation. The same forces—primarily the need to assess “value for money” in all aspects of the health industry—have created opportunities to re-purpose existing health care job roles; nurses as managers, epidemiologists as market researchers, biostatisticians as cost-effectiveness analysts. Thus, there are many more opportunities today for “non patient care” health professionals than ever before. As we enter into what could be considered “Phase 3” of this evolution—including the first comprehensive attempt at federal health reform in nearly 20 years—there is every reason to believe that the industry is far from a state of equilibrium.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-farm payroll employment changed little in May 2012 (+69,000). The overall unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 8.2%, but employment increased in health care, transportation and warehousing, and wholesale trade. Health care employment continued to increase in May of 2012, adding 33,000 jobs during the month. Within the industry, employment in ambulatory health care services, which includes offices of physicians and outpatient care centers, rose by 23,000 over the month. Since January 2012, health care employment has risen by a total of 340,000 jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions, the number of jobs within the health professions is expected to grow 27% between 2004 and 2014, with the growth spread relatively evenly across the different occupation groupings (Figure 1). In contrast, the growth rate in employment across all industries for the same time period is only 14% (date not shown in figure). Thus, health care jobs continue to be fast growing and among the most stable of all jobs in recent years.

Within these broad categories, some professions are expected to grow exceptionally fast. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, within the health professions there are a large number of occupations that are expected to grow faster than the health professions as a whole. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that dental hygienists, diagnostic medical sonographers, home health and personal care aides, medical assistants, and occupational therapists (and aides) and physical therapists (and aides) will experience growth rates of 30% or more between 2010 and 2020.

At Avalon Health Economics, we have helped colleges and universities build programs in health services research, health administration and management, health economics and outcomes research, and public health. We offer a unique perspective—our consultants have extensive experience in academia and in industry. This gives us the ability to help colleges and universities build programs that are industry relevant and open excellent employment opportunities for graduates, making the programs very attractive to prospective students.

— John E. Schneider, PhD, CEO

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