When you think of the most profitable industries in North America, what comes to mind? You may be surprised to learn that healthcare has usurped all other job-creating industries in the United States and risen to the top of the list. The Atlantic reports that for the first time in history, “health care has surpassed manufacturing and retail, the most significant job engines of the 20th century, to become the largest source of jobs in the U.S.”
While this revelation isn’t surprising considering baby boomers are aging; it is shocking to see manufacturing – the number one industry in North America since the industrial revolution – be overthrown. The Atlantic reports that this shift towards healthcare, although expected, has been quite swift: “In 2000, there were 7 million more workers in manufacturing than in health care. At the beginning of the Great Recession [in 2007], there were 2.4 million more workers in retail than health care. In 2017, health care surpassed both.”
Is Healthcare Recession-Proof?
There are three main reasons why healthcare – a trillion-dollar industry in America – has become the most profitable:
1. As a group, we are getting older.
A study by the National Institute on Aging concluded that the number of Americans aged 65 or older “increased tenfold in the last century.” The 2016 Canadian census also revealed that for the first time in census history, there are more seniors than children living in Canada.
2. Healthcare is recession-proof.
Even in times when many other industries are struggling, health care continues to rise. The Atlantic reports that “health care employment increased every month during the Great Recession” from 2007-2013.
3. Healthcare is resistant to destabilizing forces in the labor market.
Automation and globalization have been two of the biggest threats to the industrial market in North America since the World War II, however, healthcare has not been significantly affected by either. After all, care from your family doctor cannot be outsourced to another country, and a robot cannot perform solo surgeries on patients (not yet at least.)
What Does This Increase Mean for Patients?
More people employed in healthcare-related positions must equate to better care and health outcomes for patient’s right? Not exactly. According to The Atlantic, the majority of new jobs in healthcare are administrative – including managers, office clerks and receptionists – not clinical. Clinical positions, such as physicians and registered nurses, are actually experiencing a deficit.
An alarming study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reveals that the US is currently facing a significant shortage of physicians, and it is only going to grow worse. “Estimates [suggest a shortage of] 34,600 to 88,000 doctors by 2025 and by 2030, the shortfall is expected to total anywhere from 40,800 to 104,900 doctors,” CBS News reports. There are also not enough nurses to meet the growing demands on the healthcare system.
An article published by NPR, also poses a heavy hitting question that must be asked: “Does the existing system too often focus on financial incentives over health or science?” According to Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, an author, medical journalist and former M.D., “we’ve trusted a lot of our health care to for-profit businesses and it’s their job, frankly, to make profit.” Her bestselling book, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back,” suggests points out that under our current healthcare system, it is far more lucrative to provide a lifetime of treatments than a cure.
What Does the Future Hold?
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, we are guaranteed to see a steady rise in the healthcare industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that over the next decade, five of the top 10 fastest growing careers will be in healthcare. In particular, personal-care aides and home-health aides are expected to be two of the fastest growing occupations, “projected to account for one in every 10 new jobs.”
The continued rise of employment is one of several positive prospects on the horizon for healthcare in the United States. Modern Medicine suggests that there are other “pockets of innovation” ahead, including:
- A greater understanding of genomics leading to more personalized and cost-effective treatments
- A growing emphasis on “whole person” care integrated with mental and physical health
- Technology gains, such as patient monitoring and surgical procedures that lead to better outcomes and lower costs
- The changing culture and training of providers that looks more to root causes and long-term outcomes
Modern medicine also suggests that to achieve positive change, members of the public must be active participants in healthcare reform, educating themselves and understanding that the “government in and of itself should not be considered the savior or the ultimate villain, but a key factor in the evolution from healthcare to health outcomes.”
What do you think about the status of healthcare in the U.S.? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.