Finally, good news on potential job growth. Georgetown University recently issued a study which found that there will be a 38% growth in healthcare jobs in Georgia by 2020. More importantly, Georgia is one of the top two states where healthcare job growth is expected. With the Georgia unemployment rates for July at 9.3%, the healthcare industry is a beacon of hope.
The ever-changing and complex healthcare laws are just one factor driving this growth. In fact the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“Stimulus Act”) provided billions of dollars in financial incentives to encourage healthcare providers to adopt and implement electronic health record systems. Georgia leads the nation with an exceptional and strong healthcare information technology industry. According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia has over 200 healthcare information technology companies and 75% of the companies plan to add jobs. Therefore, Georgia is uniquely positioned to use healthcare as its foundation to foster economic development by capitalizing on one of its strongest industry sectors.
Georgia is also a prime location for population growth. In looking at the Georgia resources, it is a fantastic place for individuals, including the large baby boomer population, to retire. With Georgia’s coast and the North Georgia Mountains, it is attractive to many individuals. As the population grows in the state, individuals will need healthcare services. In order to deliver healthcare, more clinicians, including nurses and physician extenders, will be necessary. Moreover, Georgia has a lot of rural areas and it is difficult today to find a specialist to provide care in all areas of the state. Therefore, ensuring that healthcare is accessible in Georgia will require innovative models. Developing these programs will expand the potential types of jobs that will be needed to ensure access to healthcare for all residents.
Another factor is the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Healthcare Reform Act”) which is forcing the healthcare industry to think outside of the box. The Healthcare Reform Act funded demonstration projects and programs to redesign how healthcare services are delivered. The demonstration programs are also changing how providers will be reimbursed. In the future, reimbursement will be based upon the patient’s quality outcomes and the patient care-giver experience. Therefore, providers are looking at innovative ways such as telemedicine, email reminders or phone applications to engage patients and assist the patients to be more compliant with their treatment plans. The benefit is that changing the healthcare model opens up additional jobs that are not present today.
Some of the new jobs will focus upon case workers and clinical care providers meeting with patients outside of the hospital setting. The case worker or healthcare provider will work directly with patients to ensure that the patients are taking their medications, seeing their physicians and getting the lab work done in a timely manner. The caseworker, working directly with the patient, will engage the patient to be more accountable for his or her healthcare. When a patient is more accountable for his or her own healthcare needs, the belief is that the patient will comply with the treatment plan and take his or her medications. A compliant patient should reduce the cost of care by keeping patients out of the hospitals and fostering a quicker recovery.
The Healthcare Reform Act also encouraged patients to obtain preventative screenings which will increase the number of providers needed to perform the testing. Specifically, the government removed the Medicare beneficiaries copayment or coinsurance requirement for certain preventative testing. By removing the financial responsibility, the federal government hopes to encourage patients to obtain screenings that can detect potential healthcare issues early and ultimately improve the patient’s outcome.
Georgia has the resources and the population to make this projected job growth a reality. However, in order to fully capitalize on this opportunity, Georgia must dedicate resources to ensure there is a trained workforce. Resources to support healthcare training will be necessary in all of the universities and colleges. Georgia must also support its healthcare providers and foster innovative approaches to expand how healthcare is delivered in both metropolitan and rural areas. Georgia is full of quality healthcare providers and healthcare information technology companies. By supporting and developing unique models that improve patient quality outcomes, Georgia can lead the nation in job growth and serve as an example of sustainable economic development.