Health care thriving despite slow economy


Medical assistant Kenya Williams provides flu vaccinations not only for students but for faculty and staff as well, including Dr. Scott Spear, executive director and chief physician of the Student Health Center. | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

Although the United States is struggling with a wavering economy, reduced hours for part-time workers, student debt and heightening unemployment rates, the health care industry is thriving, and seven of the top 10 jobs in U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 jobs list are in the health care field.

Faculty members from the University evaluate the national trend of this upward swing of job creation in the private health care industry and make predictions to the future of job creation in the health care industry. Earl Smith, UH’s chief health officer, said there are not enough people to fill the growing job openings in the health care industry.

“Pick any profession — optometry, nursing, general practitioners, physical therapists — the number of practitioners per 100,000 folks is lower than it should be. We definitely don’t have the funds to meet the demand right now. That’s why you are seeing immigration to the U.S. of health care providers and the recruiting overseas,” Smith said.

Growth is expected in the independent practices of health care as a result of baby boomers and the Affordable Care Act.

“Some of the independent professions, like doctor-level nurse practitioners and advance nurse practitioners, I see a tremendous opportunity in growth; particularly in the ACA, because they are, in essence, primary care providers, and any profession in primary care is going to be in high demand,” Smith said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. will see a 14.5 percent employment rate growth by 2022.

Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences and Administration Kevin Garey said he believes that colleges of pharmacy may not be meeting the demand of future pharmaceutical jobs.

“It has always been an attractive area for undergraduate students to want to pursue a pharmacy degree. Most colleges would have 800 to 1,000 applicants per 100 seats. A lot of universities have seen these numbers and have opened up their own College of Pharmacy,” Garey said.

“In the last number of years, there has been a number of new pharmacies. The debate is: Are there too many colleges of pharmacy? Or, perhaps, there is still not enough because all of these potential job openings. That truly is a hot debate at the moment.”

Garey said pharmacy will continue to thrive and may develop to being considered as primary care.

Marc Piccolo, associate dean for professional advancement and executive director of surgical services at the UH College of Optometry, gives insight on why health care has grown in the past few years.

“As the baby boomers get older, there is going to be an increased demand for health care, and the result of that will be an increase for health care manpower,” Piccolo said. “Additionally, health care is a little bit more difficult to deliver these days than it has been in the past. Those of us who are involved in health care delivery find ourselves really working a lot harder to provide the care.

“Reimbursements from federal agencies, in particular Medicare and Medicaid, have a lot more regulations on them, a lot more hoops we have to jump through, which requires us then to hire personnel to help process claims and to get reimbursed from services that we provide.”

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