1)What are some current and future human resource issues in health care? How may effective human resource management deal with these issues?
2)Do you consider outsourcing a pro or con in reaching health care strategic goals? Why?
Human resources issues unique to the health care industry have historically differed little in concept than for other professions. Clearly, the stakes in the medical field are higher than in most, given the life-and-death nature of the work performed in many medical facilities, but the fundamentals remain largely the same as for other industries. Recruiting, training and retaining the best people possible is the objective, whether in law, manufacturing, or health care. The margin for error in the health care field is limited, but the training involved in operating a health care facility is designed to address these challenges, and the screening process is rigorous. The responsibilities of human resources professionals remain as vital to the proper functioning of health care facilities as ever, but those responsibilities are not unique.
What will change with respect to human resources responsibilities within the health care field is the need to adapt to the changes in health care in the United States in the wake of passage of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,” known commonly, if derisively, as “Obamacare.” The full impact on the health care industry of this massive new law won’t be felt for several more years, but it will have major ramifications for how many facilities are operated. If the Affordable Care Act works as intended, more people will have access to health care. If it doesn’t work as intended, the facilities existing to care for additional patients will be under considerable financial pressure while possibly contending with diminishing resources. If a net effect of the 2010 legislation is to curtail physician earnings, for example, fewer students may be inclined to subject themselves to the rigors and financial costs associated with a medical school education. That will present a major challenge to human resources professionals tasked with ensuring a continuous flow of quality, well-trained medical personnel. Additionally, pay structures, a major responsibility of human resource managers, may become more difficult to design and implement.
The cost of a college education has become prohibitively high for many students. The additional costs associated with a medical school education impose a major long-term burden on students who aspire to a career in medicine. The physical and mental pressures that accompany medical school, internships and residencies, combined with financial considerations, make a decision to pursue such a career difficult to all but the most committed. Any ramifications from the Affordable Care Act perceived by future generations of college students contemplating a medical school education as inhibiting their ability to earn sufficiently to compensate for those physical, mental and financial rigors will make the jobs of human resource managers far more difficult than in the past.
With respect to the question of contracting out, or outsourcing, particular missions or responsibilities, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Many people are familiar with the practice of outsourcing service sector jobs to countries with lower costs. That radiologists in Dehli or Mumbai may be less expensive to use than U.S.-based radiologists, even with equal quality training and full access to modern telecommunications, does mean that it’s a good idea to outsource to another country many miles away. Technological glitches occur on a regular basis in all areas of advanced communications, including teleconferencing. That is a problem when military officials are attempting to communicate from distant war zones to headquarters facilities thousands of miles away. It is a problem with lawyers and financial advisors teleconferencing across vast geographic distances. In a field where precision is absolutely vital to the health of a patient, however, the level of confidence one may have in colleagues in less-developed countries, even those with physicians and technicians trained in American medical schools, will rarely equal the level of confidence one will have with colleagues across town, down the hall, or several states away.
Outsourcing is a cost-saving tool. Contracting out services within one country where regulatory structures are shared and trusted is one matter; contracting out to certain foreign locales where the regulatory environment may be far different, and markedly inferior, as in certain industries in China, where much outsourcing occurs, is an entirely other matter. The pros of outsourcing, cost savings, maximizing efficiency in some instances, are occasionally outweighed by the cons, including lower levels of confidence in the quality of goods or services and less-secure lines of communication. In the health care field, those considerations are, as noted, more salient than in many other fields or industries. Even when the distinctions are purely psychological, one cannot entirely discount the importance of psychological considerations when one’s health is at stake. Patients who lack confidence in the quality of their care are less likely to respond to treatment.