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Survey: Many healthcare jobs disappearing, taking pay cuts

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Traditional healthcare jobs are rapidly evaporating as the industry goes through a whirlwind of changes, according to a new survey by Physicians Practice.  Providers facing significant cash outlays to adopt EHRs and transform their offices into IT-connected, accountable care practices are cutting back on administrative staff, medical assistants, billing staff, and records clerks while paying physician assistants 8% less than they did two years ago.

“What’s happening in American medical practices is clear,” explained Bob Keaveney, editorial director of Physicians Practice. “As practices modernize, jobs of the past are disappearing.” A quarter of practices have reduced staff over the past five years, and 32% have cut or frozen salaries.  Without paper records to wrangle, file clerks are finding 37% fewer opportunities for employment, while one quarter of billers and billing manager positions have also been axed, a curious finding ahead of ICD-10, which relies on skilled billing staff and coders to mitigate potential revenue losses.  Front desk staff also experienced a 10% decline, as providers tighten their belts due to a variety of economic factors.

Nineteen percent of providers have cut employee benefits like dental coverage and retirement plans, while 18% have reduced staff hours to avoid letting staff go. Twelve percent have done the opposite and added longer hours without increasing their headcount.  More than half of respondents will not give raises in 2013, with 66% citing decreased income as the reason, and 15% stating that their investments in health IT will preclude increasing staff compensation.

But the news isn’t all bad: care coordinators, a job category that barely even existed a few years ago, are now employed by one in five practices to help patients navigate the healthcare system and access preventative health and wellness services.  While 84% of the 980 survey respondents are not yet part of an accountable care organization, the shift towards risk-based reimbursement, an increased focus on preventative medicine, and personalized patient care is in its infancy, and is sure to spread rapidly through the industry in the next few years.

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