Rehabilitation Professionals Will Remain Most Difficult To Fill

Amidst the frenetic background of the national presidential election, an agreement was being crafted with the current Administration that expanded Medicare coverage for individuals with progressive diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS. This agreement, based in part on a nationwide class-action suit, will sharply increase the need for rehabilitation and skilled care professionals. Considering these individuals are already among the most difficult to hire, the challenge of finding, attracting, hiring and retaining them will only increase. 

For decades, Medicare would not pay for skilled services, such as physical therapy treatments, unless a patient was showing progress. For many suffering from chronic and progressive diseases, the goal was never to improve but rather to maintain. So when the progressive disease eclipsed the progress being achieved through therapy, Medicare discontinued reimbursements.

It was successfully argued in various courts that maintaining in the face of a progressive disease was improvement, and that denying benefits doomed patients to a sharper decline. Several courts supported this premise, and the current Administration has begun rewriting reimbursement agreements as part of a proposed settlement. Some reimbursements for chronic patients have already begun.

So the need for rehabilitation treatments and skilled care for chronic diseases will be covered just as the tsunami of retiring Baby Boomers demand more joint replacements and Healthcare Reform, which fully supports all types of therapy as part of improved healthcare and prevention, is guaranteed to be implemented.

With the re-election of the president on November 6, 2012, the Healthcare Reform law became secure and will continue to be transitioned, with full implementation by 2015. With a raft of provisions that allow coverage for existing and preventative conditions, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists and their assistants will remain the most difficult hire.

According to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, 773,000 replacements were performed in 2009, with knees accounting for about 75% of the procedures. It is projected that in 2012 an excess of 3,000,000 joint surgeries will be performed in the United States, and that will grow as Baby Boomers age and continue to retire at the rate of 11,000 per day for the next 19 years.

Already there are large healthcare delivery systems located in areas with a high concentration of seniors that have three shifts of therapy. Want your knee replaced? You may have to exercise at 2:00 am. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 66 million Americans have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions, so the demand is almost assured.

Add that to the fact Healthcare Reform lifted therapy caps on Medicare, and that, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), Physical Therapists, who write their own orders and fill them, will drive on average approximately $200,000 annually to the bottom line for long-term care facilities. Home care also is exploding under Healthcare Reform because it is so much less expensive to provide therapy and skilled care in the home as opposed to a long-term care facility.

Rehabilitation professionals are young, with the bulk aged 24 to 44 years, even though some work into their 60s due to no-lift policies and the ability to transition to a desk. To successfully recruit, you need speed, good communication, broad benefits and social manipulation. Younger professionals research for job opportunities by Googling and then respond only to easy to complete applications. If they aren’t easy, they simply drop off. If they don’t sell, they move on.

These high-in-demand professionals listen to their friends and don’t hesitate to read reviews on Yelp, Glassdoor and Vault. They expect recruiters to text them and allow communication on their mobile devices if not the ability to apply via a mobile device. They want clear job descriptions and a practice environment that understands the way they think and operate. They are the largest work group, so they can set the agenda, which is something very difficult for Baby Boomers, who until the last few years absolutely set the agenda.

Pay will also become a point of discussion. Healthcare Reform drives providers to a much more business-focused model, and consequently, recruitment takes on a renewed importance. For-profits tend to recruit more aggressively, and they consider what the professional will drive to the bottom line, as opposed to a historical correlation to spreadsheets maintained by compensation and benefits.

With the President in the White House until 2016, Healthcare Reform a reality, expanding Medicare, Baby Boomers who demand increased healthcare, and a group of workers aged 34 years and younger setting the course of the workplace, recruiters need to rethink how they are going to attract, hire and retain such in-demand professionals.

 Think mobile, social and selling the opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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