Workforce Supply

Workforce supply represents the number of people working or available to work in health care settings. Depending on the situation, some supply estimates also incorporate specific adjustments that reflect capacity for work and productivity. For example, FTE (ie, full-time equivalent) estimates are based on the number of hours a person works a week to determine who is considered full-time.

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FAQs About Workforce Supply

How reliable are different sources of physician supply data?

An article by DesRoches et al (2015) compared the National Provider and Plan Enumeration System (NPPES), the American Medical Association Masterfile, and the SK&A physician file to evaluate data accuracy. The authors performed this analysis in the context of using the selected datasets for sampling frameworks and counting physicians in a given area. The authors found that while none of the files were perfect, the NPPES contained broader coverage and NPPES and SK&A data had reasonably accurate and current address information. The AMA Masterfile had lower rates of correct address information.

State licensure data are another matter. Some state medical boards require only basic information, including a mailing address for licensing correspondence. Some states collect more robust data through licensure, including multiple practice addresses, and demographic, education, and practice characteristics. Some states conduct regular surveys. States may or may not systematically verify the licensure or survey data.

Different data sources have different limitations. Before using any dataset as a sampling frame or for research, it is essential to understand the data’s purpose and how they are collected, verified, and updated.


Is the number of health care jobs continuing to grow?

During the recession, healthcare jobs increased at the same time when many sectors were losing jobs. This trend is continuing to hold.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of healthcare occupations will grow 18% from 2016 to 2020. This is faster than the average for all occupations and will add about 2.3 million new jobs.
  • Altarum produces monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators briefs that monitor trends in health care employment, spending, and prices. Their 2017 employment brief shows continued growth in the number of health care jobs, with the greatest growth found in outpatient care centers.
  • A November 2017 Health Affairs Blog discussed projected changes in health care employment under different policy proposals including the current law, H.R. 1628 American Health Care Act (AHCA), and ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers. The projections and comparisons predict a loss of jobs under the AHCA and CSR payment reduction proposals. It concluded that continued monitoring is needed to ensure there are enough health care workers to meet the population’s needs.

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