Healthcare Workforce Trends: Allied Health

Medicine and the medical field continually evolve. Emerging technology, as well as the changing needs of society, causes shifts in the medical field. The allied health field is one area that is experiencing rapid growth and other changes.

What Are The Healthcare Job Growth Projections For Allied Health?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statisticsjobs in allied health are expected to grow by about 18% through the year 2026. The BLS estimates that the average employment growth for all occupations is about seven percent. Allied health is projected to have more than double the growth of other occupations.

The projected job growth varies by specific occupation within allied health. Certain fields, such as respiratory therapists, are predicted to grow at rates close to 23%.

The top employers of allied health professionals are predicted to be hospitals. But jobs should also be plentiful at skilled nursing facilities and outpatient care centers, such as urgent care clinics.

Reasons For Allied Health Job Growth

According to some employment research, it is clear allied health is a continually growing field. A few factors are contributing to job growth including the following:

1. People are Living Longer

Advances in treatment have increased the life expectancy, which means people are living longer. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “old-age mortality decline has driven recent lifespan increases.”  In 1990, the average life expectancy was 71 years old. Today the life expectancy is about 78. Deaths from cancer have dropped, and continued research and clinical trials may improve prognosis even further. People that once died after an illness, such as a stroke, are surviving more often, which creates the need for more allied health workers, such as occupational and physical therapists.

2. Healthcare Technology Advances

Technology, such as electronic medical records and robotic surgery, creates new specialties within the field of allied health. It’s likely that additional specialties will emerge in the years ahead. Technological advances have improved healthcare from an operational perspective as well as a direct involvement in medical care. Electronic databases as well as mobility for doctors have greatly improved efficiency. Patient information can be accessed quicker and patient portals allows patients access to their health information. Doctors are easier to get a hold of and can connect with fellow colleagues for consults in a quick manner with the use of smartphones. There are also medical-related improvements, such as advanced monitoring and imaging capabilities, that provide doctors with a more precise and clear view of anatomical structures and physical functions. This allows medical professionals to detect, prevent and treat harmful conditions in an accurate and timely manner.

3. Physician Shortage

The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts there will be a shortage of doctors within the next ten years, including primary and specialty care. With improved health initiatives such as reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans will live longer. In turn, this creates a high demand for doctors faster than what is available. Due to the shortage of doctors, physician assistants will be in demand. Physician assistants can perform a lot of the same duties as doctors and are often more cost effective.

4. Cutting Costs in Healthcare

Many healthcare facilities are developing ways to reduce costs. Cost-cutting measures may be needed due to a decrease in reimbursement from insurance companies and changing Medicare guidelines. Facilities may hire allied health workers that are more cost-effective than a nurse or doctor.

Different Types Of Allied Health Professions

There are dozens of allied health careers. Some of the jobs that are predicted to be in demand include:

  • Physical assistants
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Physical therapy assistants
  • X-ray technologists
  • CT/MRI technologists
  • Anesthesia technicians
  • Medical Laboratory technologists
  • Phlebotomists
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Ultrasound technicians
  • Surgical technicians
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Medical assistants

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