WHO: Swine Flu Pandemic Official

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that  the Swine Flu has covered enough of the globe to qualify as the first pandemic in over 40 years.  The formal announcement made this Thursday doesn’t mean the flu strain has become any more lethal, just that it has spread beyond any ability to contain it across the globe. Swine flu has afflicted 29,000 people so far across nearly 80 countries worldwide.  Luckily, the strain isn’t hyper-virulent and most folks who contract the illness require conventional medical treatment for their mild symptoms.  The WHO have urged pharmaceutical maufacturers to produce stockpiles of anti-viral medication and governments have been working on developing vaccination programs to protect populations from easy transmission of the virus. Although the first pandemic of the 21st Century seems to be mild by historical standards, the sheer number of people infected across the globe represents a serious burden on healthcare systems and underscores the insatiable demand for healthcare and healthcare support providers in a world with a burgeoning population.

Early Draft of Healthcare Bill Reveals Imminent Changes

On Friday a partial draft of the healthcare legislation currently wending its way through Congress was released.  While the bill is likely to undergo significant revision, there are several sweeping changes proposed that are likely to be included in the final legislation.  One of the more interesting of the proposed changes involves the creation of a health insurance exchange. Known as the American Health Benefit Gateway, this portion of the proposed legislation would mandate that each state create and manage a gateway to help individuals and businesses purchase health insurance. According to the draft, the proposed Gateway will not allow the denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions. It would also guarantee the availability of health coverage in group and individual markets while eliminating lifetime or annual limits on the amount of care a provider will cover.  This part of the bill would certainly help those uninsured with pre-existing conditions to gain access to coverage. And the creation of gateways in every state will almost certainly boost employment among those in the field of medical record keeping. In fact, whatever shape the legislation ultimately takes, the goal of providing healthcare coverage for all Americans can only have a positive effect on employment in health related fields. It will be interesting to see how this historic reform bill ultimately pans out.

Transition from Manufacturing to Heathcare

With the closure of hundreds of Chrysler and GM dealerships across the country, there are going to be thousands of folks joining the ranks of the unemployed. And its not just dealers that will be out of work. Decreased demand and closures will have a rippling effect throughout the workforce as parts manufacturers, detailers, shippers, and other ancillary automotive support industries are pared back in tandem with the closures. Even non-automotive industries will suffer from the maleffects of these closures. I know that the bagel shop, newsstand and lunch counters adjacent to my local automall will all be suffering from fewer salesmen, mechanics, detailers, etc., there each day to buy coffee, newspapers, lottery tickets, bagels and lunches.  The sad part is, many of these jobs will be lost for good. When manufacturing plants close, and large numbers of skilled workers are dumped into the labor pool, it is near impossible to find new positions for these workers. These jobs simply dry up. As painful as this is, it is this function of the business cycle that prompts displaced workers to seek training in industries where there is greater opportunity for growth and job stability. Traumatized by the loss of a lifelong career path, folks seeking job training typically seek fields that they believe will insulate them against falling victim to this kind of cataclysmic collapse ever again. The medical billing and coding field is a natural match for those seeking to retrain and redeploy into a growing field. With the Baby Boomer generation entering retirement age, the need for healthcare is projected to continue to rise dramatically. As the population continues to age, the security in this field should rise in direct correlation.   So if you’re a victim of the collapse of the US auto industry, you might consider a new career in a secure and growing field. We are sorry for your hardship and loss, but we offer you the hospitality of our community and the opportunity to grow with us.

Friday Follies

Making it through another week is always an accomplishment worth noting. Whether its a school week, a work week or both, strong effort Monday through Friday deserves to be rewarded with a little levity and fun.   With the “TGIF” spirit at heart, let’s take a look at a place you might want to  one day visit to celebrate your graduation from Allen School Online and entry into the medical field. The blogmaster at one of my favorite cocktail recipes blogs, recovering from a recent appendectomy, came across this medical-themed restaurant and bar room while websurfing in his hospital bed. At “The Clinic” restaurant in Singapore, the food and drinks are served in surgical pans, syringes and other hospital themed vessels by waitstaff clad as nurses and surgeons. My favorite has to be Nitro Sangria served in an IV drip bag. (Well, that and being able to afford a trip to Singapore!) And if that didn’t make you laugh, perhaps you need to take a step back from studies and work (after school or work today) and get back to your primal roots. Just take a page from our primate cousins, who, according to recent research, laugh just the same as humans. If you want to smile on this Friday, take a look at this amazing video from National Geographic showing researchers tickling gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and others while recording their laughter.

Best and Worst Cities for Healthcare Jobs

I found this excellent piece of research via website www.nursinglink.com outlining the top 5 best and worst cities for seeking employment in the healthcare field. As part of my series on job markets across the country, I will explore these top 5 best cities, one by one, in subsequent posts. Here’s the list of the best and worst from NursingLink: 5 Best Cities for Healthcare Job Hunters
  1. Sioux Falls, SD
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Ft. Walton-Crestview-Destin, FL
  4. DesMoines, IA
  5. Boston, MA
5 Worst Cities for Healthcare Job Hunters
  1. Yuma, AZ
  2. Fresno, CA
  3. Dalton, GA
  4. Waterbury, CT
  5. Monroe, MI
I know a little something about both Madison Wisconsin and Boston Massachussetts having spent some time in both those fair cities. So I am looking forward to providing some more detailed info on those two markets as well as the three other top 5’s in subsequent posts in this Job Market series.

File Under: Easier Said Than Done

Of all the individual ideas for healthcare reform proposed by President Obama, the notion of transitioning to a fully electronic process for the maintenance of medical records would seem to be the most obvious. It also seems like one of the easier things to accomplish, given the other, more ambitious reforms on the agenda. After all, its clear that the technology for such complex electronic record keeping already exists and is currently in use by other industries. Yet nearly two decades after the beginning of the information revolution, while the technology has grown exponentially there has been little will to apply it to medical record keeping. President Obama was not the first inhabitant of the White House to suggest that enormous savings could be captured through the application of information science and Internet technology to replace old, paper based data management. Maximizing efficiency is one, legitimate way the insurance industry could keep the climbing costs of healthcare down without cutting service levels. Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also supported moving in this direction. So what are the obstacles? Among the roadblocks to adoption of widespread Electronic Medical Records or EMRs in the US are such issues as: Interoperability – the ability (or inability) of disparate computer systems to “speak” with one another. Doctors’ offices, hospitals, labs, insurers, public health institutions, etc. Privacy – developing protocols for transfer of data among the numerous providers in a way that protects personal information (partially addressed in HIPAA) Legacy Data Capture – the logistics involved in scanning and entering existing patients’ medical histories into the system to avoid discarding valuable, historical, medical perspective Change Management – the process of fostering adoption of new technologies and practices across entire enterprise level industries is challenging Other obstacles to adoption include: cost of implementation, unclear standards across all programs, problematic legal issues (digital signatures and data preservation procedures etc.). Everyone seems to agree that implementing EMRs in the US is a worthy goal. Yet, as with so many goals worth achieving, this one is easier said than done.

Best Job Markets in the US – Part 1

The current economic challenges have had the unintended consequence of spurring a lot of media coverage regarding employment figures nationwide. The upside of this focus on job data is – if you’re starting a new career – you have access to a wide array of data on where you can find a good job in an area projected to enjoy continued growth. Since lately I seem to be stumbling across a lot of state-by-state lists of “Top Growth Jobs”, I have decided to write a series of posts detailing the career environments in different areas of the country for people with medical billing and coding expertise. This virtual tour of great American destinations (and their respective job markets) may be as close as this writer gets to a vacation this year, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I plan to. Today, let’s look at the data from California, a State I once called home and a great place to be if you’re working towards a career in the healthcare field. The current recession has spurred significant job losses and a lot of coverage about California’s unemployment. Yet, less reported are the thousands of new job openings filled in the Golden State every day. According to labor statistics, California’s total employment is predicted to approach 20 million or more by 2016. That’s good news! What’s even better is that the healthcare sector is number one on the list of “growth industries” and medical billing is included in the list of “25 Jobs to Increase through 2016” in California. That makes the Golden State a good place to consider living and working. This blogger lived in San Francisco during and after the Internet boom/bust and even in the dark economic days, post-bubble, I always found it a great place to find gainful and rewarding employment. It also has the added benefit of being a truly beautiful place to live. Pristine beaches, majestic mountains, acclaimed wineries, world-class golf, diverse music, innovative cuisine…***sigh***. Great place to begin your own Gold Rush. Have a look at the full report on California’s employment environment here: http://hubpages.com/hub/Top_California_Jobs

Swine Flu and the Need for Medical Professionals

There are many forces driving the ever accelerating need for professionals in all medical fields. The exponential growth in human population continues to drive demand higher. The imminent retirement of an aging Baby Boomer generation is just beginning to show us what the future will look like for healthcare providers in all disciplines. But the biggest imminent demand driver is more ominous. Occurring regularly throughout history, pandemic illnesses strain the abilities of governments and society to provide care. The current emergence of potentially pandemic Swine Flu is only the most contemporary episode of a very old show. The jury’s still out on whether or not this will turn into a global pandemic like the 1918 flu that killed 30 to 50 million or if it will just be a typical flu season. But it is a certainty that as the globe becomes more crowded, diseases will strike and it is up to everyone – inside and outside the medical community – to make sure the healthcare system is up to the challenge.

The Upside of Losing a Job

It has been said that no occurrence is inherently “good” or “bad” until one decides to apply one of these qualifying labels to it. Now, I know that it is awfully hard to feel good about being handed a pink slip for any reason, especially when it’s due to economic factors beyond one’s control. Yet, those who make the decision to approach the loss of a job less as a tragedy and as more of an opportunity will avoid the fear, sorrow and uncertainty typically experienced by those who automatically decide that losing their job was categorically bad news. If your job was in a sector especially hard hit by the current recession – real estate, finance, automotive – now may be the best time to strike out in a new career direction. Recent surveys indicate that the top 10 hottest careers in today’s economic environment are comprised of 50% in the healthcare industry and 50% in the computer field. A career professional whose training incorporates elements of both these industries is practically guaranteed to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. So instead of lamenting the loss of a job, divert the time and energy you might have invested in worrying and stress into working toward an online certification in a field poised for continued growth. The opportunity to begin a new career, with new skills and exciting new challenges should be an invigorating proposition. Chose to view it as such and you’re quickly on the road back to success and security!

Imminent Spike in Demand for Medical Office Professionals?

Opinion polls show that nearly 3 out of 4 Americans support some form of universal, public sponsored healthcare. With the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius as Health & Human Services Secretary, the President’s party approaching a supermajority in Congress and the outbreak of Swine Flu shining a light on the importance of ensuring a basic level of healthcare for all Americans, the political environment seems perfect for the passage of comprehensive healthcare reform in 2009. The effects on the medical industry would be profound.Consider the following: According to a report from the National Institute of Healthcare Management, one in six Americans in 2008 lacked health insurance. That’s more than 43 million people, greater than 15% of the US population. Already in high demand, professionals supporting medical office billing and coding will be in even greater demand if legislation reform passes bringing tens of millions of Americans into the ranks of the insured. Yet, even in the absence of insurance reform, the Obama administration has made it clear that updating the medical records system transitioning to electronic record from the current paper based system is a priority. Whether this ambitious agenda is executed completely or partially, the outlook is positive for those seeking careers in the realm of billing and coding. Stay tuned for updates on this important public policy initiative.