Hospitalists needn’t worry much about federal data released this month that shows healthcare employment figures dropping for the first time in a decade. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reflects the loss of 6,000 jobs in healthcare last December, and employment gains falling to 17,000 per month on average in 2013 compared with 27,000 per month in 2012.
“The overall decline in healthcare spending and employment will have a small effect on hospitalist growth,” says Anupam Jena, MD, PhD, assistant professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston. “It certainly is true that the demand for hospital care has decreased over the last two decades and will continue to decrease as hospitals and providers become more incentivized to keep patients out of the hospital. But this effect is offset by the fact that hospitalists continue to account for larger and larger shares of all inpatient care in the U.S.”
Dr. Jena says the fact that healthcare companies lost 6,000 positions last December—the first monthly loss since July 2003, according to CNN—isn’t surprising, as it comes on the heels of a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that the rate of increases in healthcare spending has slowed over the past four years as well.
Dr. Jena says that, while healthcare reform under the Affordable Care Act may “trim the fat” by reducing the amount of lower-value health services and the number of providers that perform them, HM is still a budding field. As long as the specialty continues to demonstrate value via cost savings and reduced length of stay, that scenario isn’t likely to change, he adds.
“Although healthcare reforms will probably reduce hospitalizations, I expect the demand for hospitalists to continue to grow,” Dr. Jena says. “There are still 30% of hospitalizations in the U.S. that are not covered by hospitalists, which means there is room to grow.”