MediGuru Logo

Looming Clinical Workforce Shortage

By:Dr. Mark Kestner, Chief Innovation Officer at MediGuru

The recent pandemic has accelerated physician-practices consolidation, leading to physician employment. Nearly seven in 10 physicians are now employed. Life-style expectations, the costs and pressures of private practice, the inability to scale resources to meet population needs, and other factors have made the employed-physician model the preferred choice of the new generation of physicians. However, this pandemic has pushed even mid-practice and older physicians to reconsider private practice.

The U.S. population is aging. This means in the future, we will need more physicians, but this looming need comes when as much as one-third of all active doctors prepare to retire or exit the profession. Medical schools will be unable to keep up with the demand. Studies are anticipating the need for an additional 130,000 physicians by 2030.

While this looming shortage of physicians exists, there is also an anticipated shortage of registered nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and other clinicians. With labor costs today accounting for up to 60% of a typical healthcare system’s budget, the shortage of clinicians will further exacerbate the financial strain with recruitment and replacement costs.

Adding to this problem, many clinicians are burned out by the pandemic and the effects of the work they have been subjected to. The environment has become increasingly overburdened and complex. In summary, the workforce is shrinking and surrounded by an inhospitable place of employment.

To address this looming problem, there are two essential strategies. First, the environment needs to be simplified. Fragmented tools need to be integrated into day-to-day work. The voice of the frontline clinician needs to be heard. A multi-disciplined team must be empowered to design a system that works for them. This is a long-term project that may require testing concepts, rework, and redesign.

Second, the workforce needs to be engaged. All engagement strategies focus on the manager’s ability to give frontline staff frequent, unbiased feedback on performance. The manager must be available and empathic to the needs of their workforce. Data is powerful feedback on performance, and therefore the tools that track and accumulate performance must be available and used. Now that physicians are employees, their leadership also needs to utilize this strategy.

With our looming healthcare workforce shortage, simplifying the environment and engaging the workforce is now more important than ever.