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The Changing Landscape of Healthcare Education and Career Opportunities

For the first time ever, older adults will outnumber children with 1 in 5 residents 65 or older and this is not the only demographic shift that will reshape the economy and our neighborhoods, and our healthcare system. Healthcare will also continue to evolve in the United States to reflect the demands of our increasingly diverse population, as well as the exploding costs of healthcare.

Technology will play an even larger role in healthcare delivery and research. Providers will increasingly rely on the cloud to store and share medical records. Artificial intelligence will allow healthcare professionals to analyze more data than ever before allowing for new insights and diagnostic capabilities.

In the operating room and in the office, robotic technology will assist providers with procedures and tasks requiring precision and accuracy.

The transformative changes happening in demographics and technology will require parts of the healthcare industry to become even more specialized. The complexities and comorbidities that each patient presents with will require a team of experts working collaboratively to come up with viable solutions.  Specialists in oncology, cardiac health, and more will need to think creatively about how to solve the issues of our aging and diverse population. With that said, general practitioners, working as doctors, physicians assistants, and nurse practitioners, will continue to provide important care by offering access to preventative health services and developing lifelong relationships that will boost future health.

We will examine healthcare from many angles, exploring both challenges and opportunities in education and careers, trends in the market, the variety of healthcare environments, and insights into what the future of healthcare holds for us all.

Challenges Facing the Healthcare Industry


Everyone is affected by healthcare- from those who receive care to those who cannot afford it. Because healthcare impacts so many areas of our lives, the challenges that the industry faces have a domino effect. The skyrocketing costs of healthcare and pharmaceuticals is a constant headline in the news. This rise in costs affects those insured and uninsured.


The issue of cost becomes compounded when considered in conjunction with the huge upcoming increase in the Medicare population. Just how many baby boomers will be coming of age in the next 10 years? It’s anticipated that, “about 3 million baby boomers will hit retirement age every year for about the next 20.” The strain on the Medicare system and Social Security System will be dramatic and long-lasting.


As the baby boomers retire, there were will be an enormous amount of jobs to fill in the healthcare industry. The first baby boomers turned 65 in 2011 and are now retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. Jobs from every corner of the healthcare industry will need to find competent professionals to remain viable.


All of these challenges take place alongside the dangerous and growing opioid epidemic with at least 115 people dying every day from an opioid-related overdose. While some healthcare providers will tackle this crisis head on through recovery efforts, others will feel its impact indirectly by dealing with families affected by a loved ones overdose or children left without a caregiver.

The challenges facing the healthcare industry are multi-faceted and will require a talented and compassionate army of professionals to lead the charge in providing safe, patient-centered, evidence-based care.

Robotic Technology

Though robots will not replace qualified healthcare providers anytime soon, they will become an increasingly important part of both healthcare delivery and administration.

The use of robotics in surgery is expected to increase dramatically with 80% of surgical procedures performed by robots by 2025. Utilizing robots in the operating room allows for greater precision and performance while still maintaining a high level of care. Robots are even teaching the next generation of healthcare providers with simulation technology in the classroom. High and low fidelity manikins allow students working toward many healthcare careers such as nursing to practice a variety of skills in a safe, simulated clinical environment.


AI Diagnostics

Artificial intelligence will play an important role in diagnostics across disciplines. AI has a particular strength in analyzing images making it a valuable tool for radiologists.

In the past, doctors and technologists needed to view each scan individually. Machines that have integrated artificial intelligence can synthesize massive quantities of data looking for markers and patterns “providing quantitative, rather than qualitative, assessments of radiographic characteristics.” With this information, doctors and radiation therapist will be able to tailor therapies even further to improve patient outcomes and minimize side effects.



Technology also has the ability to dramatically increase access to healthcare. As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, telehealth is seen as the new frontier for offering personalized medical care at a fraction of the cost.

Telehealth utilizes a range of technologies to “deliver virtual medical, health, and education services.”  Telehealth uses live video, digital sharing of health information, remote patient monitoring, and mobile devices like smart phones and fitness trackers to connect patients and practitioners. Telehealth offers patients greater access to top providers, reducing disparities in care and doing so in a cost-effective way.


Online Medical Records

The administrative side of healthcare is also benefiting from technology. Medical records can be stored securely in the cloud, patients have access to their medical records through secure online portals,...

and the onerous tasks of billing have been made easier with Computer Assisted Coding (CAC). CAC can read large quantities of medical records and “automatically generates medical codes directly from [the] clinical documentation.” This streamlines the billing process, but does not remove the coder from the equation as, “it also requires savvy coders who can validate the auto-suggested codes. CAC is computer assisted coding. It will never outperform a human.”

Despite what science fiction novels may have predicted, technology will not replace humans in healthcare. Technology can enhance productivity, streamline processes, and ensure data integrity, but it is best used in conjunction with the trained professional healthcare providers who are able to see the broader picture. Over the next ten years, the industry must recruit and train talent comfortable with technology in order to provide valuable and reliable healthcare.

Impact on the Healthcare Industry


The Impact on Healthcare Careers

Despite what science fiction novels may have predicted, technology will not replace humans in healthcare. Technology can enhance productivity, streamline processes, and ensure data integrity, but it is best used in conjunction with the trained professional healthcare providers who are able to see the broader picture. Over the next ten years, the industry must recruit and train talent comfortable with technology in order to provide valuable and reliable healthcare.


The Impact on Healthcare Education

The challenges and trends coming to the healthcare industry over the next ten years pose a unique opportunity for students and institutions. New programs and degrees will be developed to meet the emerging needs and current practitioners will need to update their skill sets. First, let’s talk discuss the future of healthcare careers.



What Healthcare Education Can Help You Leverage the Emerging Healthcare Career Opportunities?


Expected High-Demand Healthcare Careers

Healthcare careers are widely predicted to be in highest demand among ALL career sectors over the next decade. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted with the release of its 2016-2026 Employment Projections, of the 11.5 million new jobs across all industries, health care and associated industries will account for a large share of job growth.


Furthermore, the BLS projections summary reports that “Healthcare support occupations (23.6 percent) and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (15.3 percent) are projected to be among the fastest growing occupational groups during the 2016–26 projections decade. These two occupational groups--which account for 13 of the 30 fastest growing occupations from 2016 to 2026--are projected to contribute about one-fifth of all new jobs by 2026. Factors such as the aging baby-boom population, longer life expectancies, and growing rates of chronic conditions will drive continued demand for healthcare services.”

The BLS Employment Projections are organized by several categories, including occupations with the fastest job growth and those with the most growth. Of the fastest, healthcare-related jobs account for 5 of the top 10 and 12 of the top 30 occupations. In the category of most job growth, healthcare is represented by four of the top 10 and seven of the top 30 occupations. All of the following jobs, regardless of category, significantly exceed the average occupational growth rate of 7 percent.

There are a number of jobs, regardless of category, that significantly exceed the average occupational growth rate of 7 percent.

Future Healthcare Work Environments

Current Work Environments

Hospitals largely represent our common understanding of the healthcare work environment of today, but only after a dynamic course of growth and change since their humble beginnings as “almshouses” in the late 19th century. Similarly, today’s doctor’s office—whether an individual practice or a multi-physician medical group—has come a long way from the neighborhood doctor who delivered care with house calls (and may yet return full circle).

Today’s sprawling medical campuses and research centers offer both prowess and promise for better healthcare, but they are also really, really expensive. Hospitals accounted for roughly $1.1 trillion of national spending in 2016 and roughly 32 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare, as Fortune’s Clifton Leaf reports. That’s more than twice what the U.S. spent in 2000 and four times more than 1990. And yet, hospital admissions since then have dropped from 123.2 per 1,000 people 1o 111.8 in 2011, according to an Avalere Health analysis of American Hospital Association data. Advancements in surgical and invasive techniques have quickened the pace of patient recovery, and yet costs continue to rise.

Future Trends

In response to growing pressures, and thanks to emerging opportunities, the future healthcare work environment will be defined by shifts in locations and technology.

In the next 10-15 years, a proliferation of onsite and mobile clinics will deliver care where the patients are — at home, work, school or even while traveling. Healthcare executives foresee that a small, agile team of a doctor, nurse and physician’s assistant will be more efficient and less costly in serving high-risk populations than emergency rooms, where large overhead costs often burden healthcare providers. Across the U.S., we should also expect continued growth in urgent care clinics that treat non-life threatening conditions with lower overhead costs that result in one-third to one-fifth the patient cost of emergency room visits. 

Pharmacy chains and physician groups are showing signs of transformation as well. Late in 2017, retail pharmacy giant CVS—which already operates 1,100 in-store “Minute Clinics” for acute health condition treatment--agreed to purchase health insurance giant Aetna for roughly $69 billion. As Fortune’s Sy Mkherjee observes, if the deal is approved by government regulators, "Aetna customers would be able to walk into a local CVS pharmacy to discuss primary care treatment options and get their prescription drugs without having to trudge through the various middlemen that pepper America’s fragmented medical system.” Consequently, insurance coverage, prescription service, and chronic health condition treatment would all be managed by one company. Similar moves, such as UnitedHealth Group bid to purchase DaVita Medical Group’s 300 clinics across the country, or Wal-Mart’s speculative acquisition of Humana present a growing model of big business operations of community healthcare services. It stands to reason, then, that an increasing number of healthcare job opportunities may follow the mold of the chain retail and big box workforces.

Meanwhile, home health care will also flourish as an alternative to hospital care, driven both by cost ($50 a day at home compared to $3,250 a day in the hospital, according to Grand View Research, Inc.) and a growing U.S. geriatric population that is prone to chronic health conditions. Home health care expansion is enabled by both human and technological factors. First, it benefits from a growing workforce of home health care nurses and aides, which is estimated to increase by 70 percent between 2010 and 2016. The second factor is the burgeoning realm of telemedicine—which provides virtual, real-time connections between patients and health care providers via internet, wireless, satellite and telephone media. According to telemed.org, roughly 200 networks operate more than 3,500 telemedicine service sites across the U.S., and more than half of all U.S. hospitals use some form of telemedicine. As Forbes.com notes, “Kaiser Permanente’s CEO, Bernard J. Tyson, recently reported having more telehealth patient transactions in 2015 than in-person visits.”  

Philip A. Newbold, CEO of Beacon Health System in Indiana, explained to hfma.org how “early warning systems” are enabled through mobile applications that deliver critical data and patient information to healthcare providers, who can then rapidly analyze and respond to the patient’s needs in general. Patients can use such systems help monitor chronic conditions ranging from diabetes to depression, and when necessary report and connect with providers for as low as, in some cases, five percent of the cost of traditional delivery models.

Healthcare Delivery Technology

Much like telemedicine, other advancements in technology will continue to impact the workplace environment in terms of tools, processes, and quality of how health care is provided. In many cases, new technologies will replace the human procedures of today, but will also require new skills, knowledge and understanding of the workforce of tomorrow.

For example, Reenita Das writes in Forbes that the artificial intelligence industry is predicted to drive “excellent patient outcomes, reduced treatment costs, and elimination of unnecessary hospital and elimination of unnecessary hospital procedures with easier hospital workflows and patient-centric treatment plans.”

Advanced uses of data analytics will drive AI as well as many other trends in the future health care environment. As quoted in P&T Community,  "Sorting through large amounts of historical clinical data to identify past patterns (e.g., at-risk populations, early symptoms of disease, utilization) opens windows to the future—and makes it possible to improve outcomes by homing in on best practices.” P&T Community asserts that similar approaches to data analysis will impact other segments of the healthcare industry, such as population health, financials, supply chains and facilities.

To fully leverage the power of big data, however, healthcare providers must pursue developments in the technological infrastructure, decision support platforms and mobile communications to “allow providers and payers to thwart disease progression and curb unnecessary hospital admissions and ED visits—all the things necessary for the ultimate goal: true population health management.”

Advancements in data management will also shift the rubric of how costs are measured, and services paid for. Under the current model, healthcare providers spend a lot of time documenting labor and supply costs from a complex mix of business groups. In other words, costs and payments are based on the volume of service. Experts envision that data management and technology will allow providers to focus on quality of the outcome. Better measurements will theoretically lead to better management, and personalized goals that, if met, will earn insurer payment. Consequently, a shifting emphasis on value-based payments will require all healthcare workers to understand and strive for prescribed outcomes.

Healthcare Training

There are many roads that lead to a career in healthcare. Whether you are already established in a career and looking to expand your opportunities or starting fresh, there is a path to the healthcare industry for you. With the ever-changing and expanding technology available in healthcare, providers must be trained in the latest strategies and approach to ensure high quality patient care.


Certificates can be a great way to enhance your resume and make you more competitive in the job market. Your employer may also require you to get a certificate to demonstrate a new competency area. Generally, certificate programs are short, perhaps a year or less, and are program-specific meaning general education courses are not required. Certificates can be completed in some on-campus programs, though many are increasingly being offered online.

The field of Health Information Technology (HIT) has a lot of certificates because of its dynamic nature. Regulations and laws from federal and state governments require much of HIT professionals in order to ensure the safety and integrity of healthcare data.

Nurses can also make themselves more competitive in the job market by earning certifications such as National Healthcare Disaster Certification or the Pain Management Nursing Certification. Specialized credentials offer nurses a way to hone their skills and demonstrate expertise in a particular area of nursing. Nursing jobs in cutting-edge institutions and hospitals may require credentials and certifications such as these.

Associate Degrees

Associate degrees typically take about 2 years to complete and are a great way to enter the healthcare field. Students with an associate degree are able to find entry-level healthcare jobs in doctor’s offices, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and more. Associate degrees in healthcare are offered in programs such as nursing, radiation therapy, healthcare administration, respiratory care, sonography, and more. Associate degrees can be completed online or on-campus.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Bachelor’s degrees are becoming the gold standard in high-demand healthcare fields such as nursing. In fact, many states are requiring that nurses attain their BSN in order to practice in response to the Institute of Medicine’s report recommending that, “the nursing profession increase the number of registered nurses (RNs) with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) to 80 percent by the year 2020.” In order to provide the best healthcare possible, nurses must be partners with all other care providers. Many studies have proven that Bachelor’s prepared nurses reduce patient mortality with one stating, “Every 10% increase in the proportion of BS in nursing-prepared RN in hospital staff was associated with a 4% decrease in the risk of death.”

Master’s Degrees

After completing a bachelor’s degree, many students seek to specialize further in their field with a master’s degree. Nurses who have earned their RN and BSN may want to become a nurse practitioner (NP) which requires a master’s degree. Other healthcare specialties that require a master’s degree include physician’s assistants, genetic counselors, and audiologists, among others. Master’s degrees can take between 2-4 years to attain and are found in both online and on-campus formats.

Schooling Options

Gone are the days where all higher learning is done in a large lecture hall between 8 am and 5 pm. Now, classes come to students wherever they are via tablet, laptop, and smart phone. That’s not to say that brick and mortar colleges and universities are becoming obsolete but rather that these staid institutions are now offering and expanding their program offerings to meet the next generation. With so many options, it can be daunting to try and find the right fit. Let’s break down each of the categories and explore the benefits and challenges of the new ways of learning.

Onsite Classes

Traditional lecture halls are still filled at campuses across the world and for good reason. Few things can substitute for old-fashioned face to face interaction when it comes to learning. From the ability to touch and feel materials in a lab to hearing the nuances of heart rhythms through a stethoscope, there are many tactile advantages to on-campus education. Students also benefit from the real-time interaction with their classmates and instructors.

Hybrid Classes

Hybrid classes are also becoming increasingly popular because they are able to meld the in-person connection of a traditional course with online flexibility. Generally, hybrid courses meet one to three times in person and then the remaining work and course interaction is done online. Students returning to school after an extended absence, such a break for a career or children, find hybrid courses a great way to integrate back into the higher education environment.

Online Classes

Strictly online classes offer the most flexibility for students. While some might require you be available during a specific time, most are done wherever and whenever you can. Instructors upload videos, podcasts, and presentations that students then download and view at their convenience. Due dates for assignments are established, but it is up to each individual student to decide when to complete the work. Online courses have become a particular favorite of non-traditional students such as parents or working adults.

Pros & Cons

Despite all of the many advantages to each type of class, there are a few drawbacks. Traditional courses offer little flexibility in terms of time commitment which may make them challenging for working adults or students with children. Hybrid classes offer great flexibility, but students can be penalized if they do not attend the required in-person classes. The freedom of an online class can be overwhelming to students who find it hard to stay on task while working at home. Further, the lack of face to face instructor and classmate interaction in hybrid and online classes can cause some students to feel isolated.

The great news is that technology has come so far that schools are able to mitigate many of the challenges presented by online or hybrid courses. With video conferencing, students can schedule meetings with their instructors to speak in real time about the curriculum. They can even use cloud-based video conferencing software to work on group projects with students from around the world. With so many programs and such a variety of learning modalities, perhaps the biggest challenge for students looking for a degree in healthcare is choosing a program and college to attend.

Selecting a Program and College

Online education has made it possible for students to enroll in programs across the United States and even across the globe. Colleges and universities have eagerly adopted online learning technology in order to offer their programs to students in all corners of the world. This means that there is more choice than ever before when it comes to choosing a program and an institution. How will you find the right fit for your future in healthcare?


Selecting a Program

Faculty should be a big factor into your decision of where to attend. No matter what institution you choose, you should make sure that they have hired experts in the field to teach in their programs. It is so important that faculty members share their real-world experience of working in the field with their students. Not only does it enrich the coursework, but it also demonstrates a level of proficiency that is crucial to preparing future practitioners.

Ask about the clinical experiences that the program offers, if applicable. Programs in nursing, radiation therapy, physical therapy, Neurodiagnostic technology, and more require students to log clinical hours to complete the degree or certificate and sit for licensing exams. Clinical experiences should be offered at a variety of sites, including cutting-edge facilities that specialize in the field you are studying. Schools that have a diverse set of clinical experiences are committed to providing students a dynamic education.


Selecting a College

It’s important to consider your lifestyle when choosing a college or university. Here are a few considerations:

  • Do you have children or others depending on you at home?
  • Is your job flexible and willing to accommodate class time?
  • How much time and money do you have to spend on commuting to and from class?
  • Do you want a rich campus-life experience with extracurricular opportunities?

Asking yourself these questions can help you narrow down the kind of institution that is right for you. Each place has its own unique environment and culture, so take time to explore their website, read student testimonials, and visit, if possible.



What Continuing Healthcare Education Brings You


It's Never Too Late to Change Your Life

More adults are returning to school than ever before, with over 85% of post-secondary students enrolled classified as “non-traditional”. Perhaps your children have grown up. Maybe you have grown restless in your current job. No matter the reason, going back to school to get a degree in healthcare will open doors in the job market and your heart.

When to Consider a Career Shift

Healthcare careers can be so rewarding and there is a position to fit every aptitude and interest. If you are wondering if it’s time to switch careers, here are a few points to consider.

  • What is your background?
  • How can you build on what you already know to create a new opportunity for yourself?
  • What does your current employer or community need?
  • Have you seen ads for a particular job?
  • What is your passion?
  • What career did you imagine for yourself as a child?
No matter what is inspiring you to seek out a career in healthcare, we wish you the best of your journey!