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The Complexities of National Health Care Workforce Planning: A Review of Current Data and Methodologies and Recommendations for Future Studies

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  • Policy Brief: The Case for a Comprehensive National Strategy

Health care systems around the globe are struggling to identify the adequate mix of health care professionals necessary to meet the needs of current and future patient populations. The U.S. is no exception.

Health care consumes 17 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and the U.S. consistently spends more on health care per capita than other developed countries. Health care costs exceed $9,000 per capita and will increase at six percent annually for the next decade.

Indeed, with reforms underway across the country to drive improvements in the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system, in addition to the present-day context of national deficit reduction strategies, it is imperative that we take a fresh look at the American health care workforce.

Due to the data currently available, however, it is difficult to offer both a complete forecast of the nation’s health care workforce supply and assess its adequacy for meeting the demand for services in coming years. Traditional supply-demand analyses for the health care industry workforce fall short of our needs. Fragmented and inconsistent data collection, variance in methodological assumptions and rigor, mistrust between professional groups, and wide differences in regulatory and educational context contribute to an incomplete understanding of workforce supply and demand.

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