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Health Reform May Change Workers’ Roles

There will be new job opportunities in California because of the Affordable Care Act, but likely more of a shift in the nature of those jobs and not necessarily an increase in the number of them, according to a new study released last week by researchers at UC-San Francisco.

“The reality is that most growth in health care jobs in California will be driven by the aging of the state’s population, Affordable Care Act or no Affordable Care,” said Joanne Spetz, associate director for research at the UCSF Center for the Health Professions, part of the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies, in a written statement. “The more interesting and profound changes will be qualitative, not quantitative.”

The shift in medicine toward measuring quality, cost and patient satisfaction could result in more customer-service jobs and the use of technology to measure data, according to study authors.

The study drew a number of conclusions about the future of the health care workforce in California:

  • Occupation growth is expected among registered nurses, counselors, social workers, medical assistants and possibly licensed vocational nurses;
  • Those positions likely will demand new skills in care management, health system organization, team-based care and quality improvement;
  • Technological innovations in health care will increase, including telemedicine and the use of mobile health apps; and
  • Care navigators and coordinators (possibly filled by medical assistants or LVNs) will be in high demand to help patients find their way through the health care system.

Lawmakers in California also might alter the workforce landscape in health care, the study said.

Those changes could include scope-of-practice legislation, which might create more demand for nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, medical laboratory technologists and certified nursing assistants. There could be legislation proposed to change nurse-to-patient staffing requirements, which could increase nursing demand. Or payment system reforms might help with telemedicine reimbursements.

“Health care workers at all levels will have to learn new leadership skills, including critical thinking, decision-making and providing constructive feedback,” Spetz said. “We’re looking at a world in which LVNs and medical assistants do care management, clerks move along the implementation electronic health record systems, and registered nurses become leaders and champions of these new systems.”

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