Workforce Demand

Workforce demand is an economic concept based on the willingness of employers to purchase the services of health care professionals at a particular compensation level. Demand is a primary reference point in workforce studies because it takes into account economic realities, and because current levels of employment reflect economic demand.

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FAQs About Workforce Demand

How do you measure demand for health workers?

Demand for health services can be difficult to measure, and data availability varies. Broadly speaking, demand for health services can be split into 2 categories:

  • Utilization
    • Those who utilize health care services, which includes people who need and receive services, and people who receive but may not need services (eg, elective procedures, the “worried well”)
  • Unmet Need
    • Those who need services but do not choose to seek them
    • Those who need services but cannot access them because of limiting factors such as cost, insurance coverage, time, transportation, availability of healthcare providers, or other reasons

Utilization can be measured by claims data and sample surveys such as the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS), but this underestimates demand for services. Data measuring unmet need is not systematically collected, and thus must be estimated or captured through individual surveys.

From the supply side, job vacancy, turnover, recruiting bonuses, and employment projections are also indicators of demand for health care services and workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks changes in employment and projects future employment estimates. Job vacancy data can be tracked through job boards or proprietary data sources such as Burning Glass Industries. Other vacancy, turnover, and bonus data can be tracked through hospital and other industry surveys. An example of state-level demand tracking is the Washington Health Workforce Sentinel Network. The Sentinel Network links health care employers with educators, policymakers and workforce planners to identify and respond to new and changing demand for healthcare workers, skills and roles.

Patient population factors, such as aging of the population, and policy changes that affect insurance coverage and disease burden, also influence future estimates of demand.


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