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'The Business of Health Care Report'

Baby Boomers and the Work Force

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I’m Doug Hawthorne, president and CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

The U.S. work force is powered by baby boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest of the boomers are nearing retirement. What is the health care industry doing to prepare for reductions in experienced medical staff as boomers leave the work force?

The average age of a registered nurse is 47. Some 38 percent of physicians are over 50.

Investment in advanced information technology is helping to improve the efficiency of health care, allowing care givers to spend more time with patients. The development of telemedicine services such as remote in-home monitoring and diagnostics also helps by enabling care givers to efficiently serve patients beyond the walls of our hospitals.

But efficiency improvements are not enough to fill the gap as boomers retire from health care professions.

Retention of experienced health care providers is critical. This will require increased flexibility and creativity in work options and human resource policies. In a recent trend story in Futurescan, health care expert Jeff Goldsmith suggested a “six-months-on/six-months off” work schedule for boomers who want to work but also want to travel and spend more time with family. This would enable boomers to enjoy pre-retirement while still contributing to quality care and helping to train the next generation of health care providers.

For Texas Health Resources and its faith-based hospitals – Harris Methodist, Presbyterian and Arlington Memorial – I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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