They’re typically one of the largest employers in the communities they serve. They generate trillions of dollars in economic activity across the U.S., and most importantly, they provide a space for health care workers like you to care for patients and save lives. Hospitals – there are 5,564 of them registered in the U.S., and nearly 34 million people are admitted to the hospital each year. Across the country, hospitals employ nearly 5.6 million people, securing their place as the second largest private sector employer behind restaurants. So why is the number of hospitals in the U.S. declining?
Despite the important services hospitals and their workers provide, there are many challenges facing hospitals today, from financing to physician shortages. These threats are causing the number of hospitals in the U.S to decline, because many hospitals are merging together to make themselves stronger, larger health systems.
So what are some of the top challenges facing hospitals today?
Challenges Facing Hospitals Today
Money. Money. Money.face
Lower payment rates for services provided are just one of the many challenges facing hospitals today. For example, Medicare and Medicaid make up 58 percent of care provided by hospitals, but close to 5 percent of hospitals are paid less than what it actually costs them to provide services to Medicare and Medicaid patients, according to the American Hospital Association.
Hospitals need more doctors!
The physician shortage in hospitals is expected to get worse, with numbers projecting that by 2030, physician shortages could reach between 40,800 and 104,900 across the country, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. When the AAMC broke those numbers down by category, primary care physicians face a shortfall of between 7,300 and 43,100; and non-primary care specialties are expected a shortfall of between 33,500 and 61,800.
Locum tenens can actually help with physician shortages.
If you’ve tuned into the news at all since President Donald Trump took office in January, you know that the federal government is inching closer to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a new health care law – the American Health Care Act. The health care bill passed the House, and it is currently being reviewed in the Senate. This is the second time that the legislation has passed the House, but it has been changed since the original version that was voted on earlier this year.
No matter where you stand politically, any change in federal regulations can bring its own set of challenges facing hospitals today.
Studies on the potential impact of the American Health Care Act, though, are showing that the new law could lead to fewer people with access to health insurance. That means that uncompensated care costs, or services that people don’t pay for after visiting the hospital, could increase. All of these changes would likely lead to health systems making less money, and sufficient funding is critical to having healthy hospitals.
For example, uncompensated care costs are already high. In 2015 that number was about $35.7 billion.
Rural hospitals closing
Although hospitals in the city and the country all struggle, rural hospitals, specifically, are hit the hardest. In the past six years, more than 70 rural hospitals have closed because of financial distress. Almost 700 face the same fate if health care trends continue.
What’s going on with rural hospitals? They serve higher risk populations – they have higher rates of Medicare and Medicaid patients – and they often have more severe physician shortages than urban locations, along with less access to technology due to old buildings and lack of space.
Locum tenans should consider choosing rural destinations when looking for their next traveling physician job, as there are many benefits to serving in these areas of the country.
National Hospital Week
The week of May 12 is National Hospital Week, which is a week of recognition for hospitals that dates back to 1921. This year’s theme is “the healing heart of health care.” The week is dedicated to hospitals and the people who keep them up and running, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and administrators.
Do you have a healing heart for health care? Use this week to find the perfect locum tenens job for you!