2022 Healthcare Workforce Predictions

Brice Voithofer

To make 2022 healthcare workforce predictions, we have to start with a careful look at the 2021 healthcare labor shortage. For a perfect storm of reasons – people wanting a fresh start in a new career, child care logistics, generous unemployment packages, early retirement, COVID fears, etc. – a majority of companies in 2021 felt pressures on both retaining and hiring employees. A recent Small Business Jobs Report reveals that almost 90% of business owners see hiring as “somewhat or very difficult.” And almost two-thirds have unfilled job openings. 

For healthcare, the pressure on clinical staff from wave after wave of Covid is obvious and currently shows few signs of abating. In addition, on the administrative side, practices have been impacted by the general labor shortage,  especially where practices have in-house billing operations.  

Before we dive into our 2022 healthcare workforce predictions, let’s look at the lessons from 2021. 

2021 Healthcare Workforce Lessons

  • In December, the Wall Street Journal quoted ZipRecruiter with estimates of 11 million job openings in the US compared with 6.9 million people unemployed but who want to work. 
    • “That’s the lowest ratio of unemployed people to job openings we’ve ever seen and that is contributing to unprecedented tightness in the labor market,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist for ZipRecruiter.
  • The “Great Resignation” has been underway since at least 2Q 2021 with nearly 3% of workers leaving their jobs every month! We have now seen a record number of “quits” for 8 months in a row.
    • Healthcare has a higher quit rate than most other industries.
  • According the Wall Street Journal, “American Workers Are Burned Out, and Bosses Are Struggling to Respond.”
    • “Employers say burnout, long an issue for American workers and exacerbated by the pandemic, is a prime cause. A September survey by the Conference Board found that more than three-quarters of 1,800 U.S. workers cited concerns such as stress and burnout as big challenges to well-being at work, up from 55% six months earlier. Half said workload-related pressure was harming their mental health.Healthcare worker burnout
  • A survey released by Morning Consult found that nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) healthcare workers have quit their jobs since the start of the pandemic. The survey also revealed that of those healthcare professionals still working, 31 percent have considered moving to a new job.
  • The conclusion of a recent AMA survey says
    • “Approximately 1 in 3 physicians, APPs, and nurses surveyed intend to reduce work hours. One in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses intend to leave their practice altogether. Reducing burnout and improving a sense of feeling valued may allow health care organizations to better maintain their workforces postpandemic.”
  • Some practices discovered that billing or coding staff shortages led to delays in payments and, in some cases, missed payments. 
    • Any breakdown in the coding and billing workflow can increase denials, resulting in delayed cash flows.

 

2022 Healthcare Workforce Predictions

No one expects the healthcare labor shortage to go away in 2022. 2022 Healthcare Workforce Predictions

  • A recent report by Moody’s Investors Services indicates workforce shortages are “poised to raise costs and whittle down performances of both nonprofit and for-profit hospitals well into 2022.” 
    • From the same report, “Many provider organizations are increasing their minimum wages for nonclinical staff to compete with other agencies, for instance, while at the same time rolling out retention and sign-on bonuses to maintain their nursing workforce.”
  • Ultimately, the verdict is split as to when there might be an end, or at least relief, to the worker shortage. Some optimistic economists the shortage will ease by summer 2022, while many others believe that both short and long term factors will cause the situation to extend into 2023, and beyond.
  • Whether the worker vs. job imbalance continues or begins to normalize, everyone expects that pay and benefit increases, flex hours and other actions that tailor jobs to worker needs will continue. The recent spikes in inflation will reinforce these trends.

Essential 2022 Healthcare Workforce Actions

Here are some of the ways to adjust to this new labor environment.

  • Plan and budget for increases in salaries/bonuses, incentives to attract talent, and improved benefits. But start by understanding your local labor market dynamics. 
    • For skilled positions, the large increase in remote work means that you may be competing with large employers located across the country.
    • For less skilled jobs, being flexible to accommodate child care, transportation and other concerns will increase your pool. 
  • Recognize that the shortage has accelerated a “ massive and possibly irreversible trend: that of giving workers a new sense of mobility they’ve never had before.” As a result, to hire and keep good employees, your practice needs to offer good jobs with opportunities for growth and promotion. This means investing more in supervision, training and leadership; i.e. this is a bigger job than just HR.
  • Consider more flexible work arrangements wherever possible. For example, part time and flex time, work from home, overtime, etc. These steps will help with both recruiting and retention, especially for younger and older workers.  Remember that your practice will seldom win a bidding war with a bigger employer. But you can win with flexibility, creativity and good jobs.
  • Consider contracting out administrative tasks that are difficult or expensive to staff internally. This can include accounting, payroll, coding, billing and more. The alternative is to commit more practice leadership time to administrative employee development.
    • Practices  with in-house billing departments will need to spend substantial energy (and money) to retain and hire competent medical billing professionals in 2022 and beyond. 

 

Large employers, like AdvantEdge, also see the same workforce dynamics. But companies like AdvantEdge are better equipped to retain and recruit skilled staff in several ways. AdvantEdge recruits from a national (in fact, global) labor pool. As a growing company, there are many opportunities for advancement. Professional training and development is in place across the company. Employees use and learn the latest technology. These factors mean that AdvantEdge clients are served by skilled coders and billers without the overhead of recruiting and retaining in-house staff. All at a variable cost that is generally less than the fixed costs of in-house billing. This means clients have more practice time to devote to clinical matters and growth. To learn more, contact us today at 877-501-1611 or [email protected]

 

Resources:

Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2021. “Jobs Gap Has Grown to Two Unemployed Workers Per Three Openings Since Summer.”

Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2021. “American Workers Are Burned Out, and Bosses Are Struggling to Respond.”

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2021/10/19/1047032996/why-are-so-many-americans-quitting-their-jobs

https://www.healthecareers.com/medpage/article/healthcare-news/the-healthcare-staff-shortage-1-in-5-workers-has-quit

https://morningconsult.com/2021/10/04/health-care-workers-series-part-2-workforce/ 

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/finance/moody-s-hospitals-staffing-agencies-shouldering-labor-shortage-while-insurers-are-largely

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/healthcare-lost-17500-jobs-september-amid-ongoing-labor-shortage

https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/payroll-employment-up-210000-in-november-2021.htm

https://www.businessinsider.com/jobs-report-october-democrats-midterms-economic-recovery-labor-shortage-healed-2021-11

https://www.businessinsider.com/why-labor-shortage-will-last-for-years-great-resignation-jpm-2021-12

https://fortune.com/2021/12/09/after-the-great-resignation-4-workplace-predictions-for-2022/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542454821001260

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