Today's fast pace of change might suggest that forecasting the evolution of healthcare professions over the next 25 years is an exercise in futility.
After all, I'm a full-time health futurist with 45 years of experience across the medical marketplace, and it takes me an incredible amount of time just to stay confused about what is happening right now. However, 25 years ago I wrote a book about the future of caregivers—Not What the Doctor Ordered—and its forecasts turned out to be remarkably accurate. I'm ready to look deep into the crystal ball again.
If the future of jobs in healthcare can be reduced to one word, it is diversity. Medicine and nursing are likely to splinter into even more segments. I see no compelling data, thoughtful ideas or unifying leaders with enough power to quell turf battles growing within and between the healthcare professions. The resulting competition will continue to erode monopoly power enjoyed by specific groups of healthcare professionals in the 21st century.
The number of job categories is likely to proliferate as existing practitioners expand their functions and as new types of caregivers are created. They will provide an expanded array of services in nontraditional locations, especially homes and workplaces. Telemedicine will account for at least one-third of all caregiver-patient interactions.
America's innovative providers are spearheading this diversification as they develop new and better models for delivering healthcare, and they are doing it independent of government-driven reform. The putative successes of the Affordable Care Act are simply replications of innovations begun in the private sector over the past 25 years. Further, the organizations that are transforming healthcare are themselves remarkably different from each other, reinforcing the view that diversity—not one-size-fits-all reform—is the future.