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Better Health Care Worker Demand Projections: A Twenty-First Century Approach

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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How many nurse practitioners will be needed in 2025, and how does this impact the demand for primary care physicians? How do private market solutions like retail care clinics address access to and the demand for preventive care services? Accurate and timely demand projections are critical to effective health professional workforce analysis and future planning.

Health professional workforce forecasting has traditionally focused on the demand for physicians. More recently, policy attention and research is increasingly being devoted to the demand for non-physician health professionals, including nurses, physician assistants, chiropractors, pharmacists, dentists, therapists, allied health and direct care providers, and others. Each group favors its own methodology for projecting its future demand, with two main results. One, there is little opportunity to compare projections across the health professional spectrum. Two, individual group methods of assessing demand are commonly based on current utilization rates, leading to a “business as usual” viewpoint of health care provision. Accordingly, to date, demand projections for the health professions have been largely inaccurate. Nevertheless, these projections help drive policy, academic and market decisions that alter the health professional landscape.

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