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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