The Future of Professions and Opportunities in Healthcare

IMG_0996Independent medical economist and health futurist Jeff Bauer opened Monday’s “The Future of Professions and Opportunities in Healthcare Panel” with a startling message for audience members in the Norris Arch Room.

“I really think healthcare as a growth industry is done,” said Bauer. “We all think that if you’re going into health care you won’t be suffering for jobs because we’re always going to spend more on healthcare. Well I think the chances of that are less than 10 percent.”

Bauer said that there is an even chance of the industry remaining stable and beginning to cut back spending in the United States. He stated that as a medical futurist, he makes forecasts for the future of health care, not predictions relying on more exact mathematical relationships. According to Bauer the climate of healthcare is changing in America, requiring new forecasts for the future, which may not be a bad thing.

“I can’t tell you a country in the world who would ever invite me to come over and talk about US health care unless it were a speech on what not to do,” said Bauer. “We spend twice as much as any other country in the world and have less healthy people: that is not a good healthcare delivery system.”

The United States does, however, have an advantage in innovation, according to Bauer, making top American institutions like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic destinations for citizens from other countries seeking medical care. Bauer encouraged students in the room to pursue a career oriented around caregiving and innovative techniques in the healthcare industry.

Healthcare consultant Norman Ryan, MD, the second speaker on the panel, touched a little more on just what further innovators of American health care need to keep in mind, particularly self-organizing principles.

“These are the things that you internalize and you think about without really having to be thinking about them that much,” said Ryan. “If you approach a question or a situation or evaluate an opportunity it has to satisfy certain things or else you won’t do it, or at least you won’t be happy doing it.”

Ryan said his own principles include curiosity, a desire to serve, and desires for security and money. An obese man Ryan once treated had no desire to exercise and eat less because his principles organized around eating enough and looking like Sydney Greenstreet, a famous overweight movie star from the 1940s and 1950s.

“He had an entirely internalized reason, along with others for doing what he did,” said Ryan. “These things are complicated decisions, feedback and education for people is not really going to work. People always talk about educating someone about something; if that really changed the behavior we wouldn’t have so many issues.”

Behavioral choices leading to obesity, smoking, non-adherence to medical instructions, and social isolation and loneliness have caused the American health system to waste billions of dollars, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute. Ryan said that social isolation and loneliness is becoming a particularly big problem, as more people use social media for most of their social interactions without realizing that it does not have the same benefits as communication with a physically present person.

“We don’t market social stuff really and I think some of the things were going to have to do is use social media to connect with people…a more sophisticated use of social media so people are not driven to isolation but are driven toward connection.”

The challenge is an exciting one for students coming into the healthcare industry, according to Ryan, but before they can start addressing these problems in their career, they’ll have to find a job.

Northwestern alumna Evelyn Lee, founder and chief executive officer at Vocation Catalyst Ltd. offered advice on the job-search. She told students to prepare well, attend mock-interviews and networking events, and explore their strengths and skills.

“Put yourself in a position where you can test yourself, challenge yourself and demonstrate those skills because at some point in the next two years or next three years you want to be able to tell someone that ‘yes, I can demonstrate these skills and here is where I have shown them,’” said Lee.

Just as Bauer and Ryan focused on innovation in healthcare systems and procedures, Lee emphasized the importance of innovation while pursuing a career.

“I encourage you really to be very open,” said Lee. “Be innovative, obtain the knowledge that you need to drive innovation, to drive change and to make a difference in this world.”

Above all, Lee said that students should not become too caught up in their studies or their extracurriculars and forget about their future.

“Take time for yourself to be certain that you have the knowledge and you have the network and the thoughts to be able to pursue and obtain those dreams that you’re working toward.”

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