5 Trends That Will Affect Your Entry-Level, Non-Clinical Healthcare Workforce in 2019

1) New Digital Interaction Jobs
With changes in technology, and younger consumers preferring digital interaction, hospitals will be challenged to prepare Frontline workers with jobs that don’t even exist yet – think Administrative or Medical Records roles that involve Social Media outreach and interaction. Digital interaction will also change Medical Assistants and Technician roles that deal with Teledoc customers or keeping health records organized, especially as care moves away from few large hospitals to quick-care and community- based health centers.

As hospitals become more invested in social media and engaging patients online, entry-level workers will need to be trained on how to provide positive customer experiences in a virtual setting. If your system hasn’t started a social media strategy yet, this will probably soon change, especially as patients begin to shop for healthcare the way they shop for cars or electrician services—by searching the Internet, looking for quality metrics and patient reviews, and comparing prices.

Another digital trend is Chatbots, and it might replace some administrative type roles. But that doesn’t mean Frontline workers in these positions will necessarily be replaced. Rather, their role will change to meet the new demands of other types of technology – analyzing data from wearables, teaching patients how to use wearables at home, and moderating Telehealth forums to interject and provide patient care when the chatbot is unable to resolve a question or issue.

2) Retail Mindset in Healthcare, and Workforce
A direct impact of patient centered care and “retail” inspiration may require additional interpersonal skill training. These are the soft skills of personal interactions, and ultimately drive health system brand loyalty. Quick care health locations in retail centers are popping up, including shopping malls and Walgreens, and existing hospitals are taking inspiration from the retail environment to improve the customer experience – for example, Frontline staff walking the floor and using iPads for check-in instead of the traditional desk.

A retail mindset will create shifting expectations of how Frontline staff interact with patients; to do this hospitals will use retail best practices to train employees. While broadening the skill set of eligible employees can be a good thing for hospitals, it’s also likely to increase turnover – an unfortunate result of this soft skill “retail” training is more employees could move back and forth between the health and retail industries as skills become more transferable.

We’ve also seen retailers invest in certification programs for their staff. This isn’t surprising as healthcare continues to mimic retail, we would expect to see more streamlined and third-party training and certification programs become prevalent in health systems. In 2019 there could arise an “authority” certification to emerge as the gold standard of certifications. Penn Foster and the National Retail Foundation are working with a $3 Million dollar grant from the Walmart Foundation on creating a retail credentialing program now. Expect a health equivalent to follow this trend.

Retail in health may be more than just a mindset of employees and hospital strategy. Retail concepts may change actual brick-and-mortar building designs. For instance, the University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center collaborated with Cannon Design to build a five-story ambulatory care facility inspired by Apple stores and other modern retail outlet designs. The lobby design doesn’t allocate space for a formal check-in or check-out area. Instead, patients are greeted by a staff member with a mobile device for checking them in, helping them to fill out health forms, finding their exam room and scheduling future visits.

3) Virtual Training for Employees
Virtual employee training will affect nearly every job category. As healthcare moves to smaller locations with quick care being a core theme, virtual training and self-taught modules will continue to be a key Upskilling format. Aside from merely showing employees best practices and social skills, digital/virtual training programs will be challenged to come up with authentic ways to evaluate these skills – perhaps through virtual group meetings, virtual role play, or VR interactions.

4) Automation Could Threaten Some Entry-Level Jobs in Healthcare
While frontline roles often require direct patient interaction, some are still subject to being replaced by automation, including cooks and information clerks. Twenty percent of companies have already deployed chatbots in the workplace and 57% are anticipated to do so by 2021. This technology could disrupt traditional hospital customer service jobs. Companies are using chatbots as personal assistants, for on-demand customer support, to mine data, streamline business processes, recover product information and to answer employee questions.

Interrupting entry-level employment situations at hospitals could interfere with traditional career pipelines to manager roles, so have development and succession plans ready, even at this level, in preparation for a more automated work environment.

5) Upskilling and Alternative Job Perks – (They Could be One and the Same)
Higher pay will always have appeal, but some hospitals are getting creative with alternative perks as a way to reduce turnover. For example, employee assistance with loans, free meals, time off, and affordable onsite childcare options can resonate.

As an example of alternative perks, Advocate Healthcare (IL) offers its Advancing Careers Through Education program which provides 100-percent tuition reimbursement for programs in high-demand specialties, such as nursing, respiratory care or health information technology. Another example hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago provides concierge services for daily errands. Plus employees with children on the college hunt can use Lurie Children’s college coaching program, in which a counselor helps families with the school selection, application and financial processes. And Lurie Children’s even offers up to $5,000 for adoption assistance and tuition reimbursement.

Upskilling will be increasingly important as technology/automation replace some jobs at hospitals. To prepare for this, healthcare facilities can take inspiration from AT&T, who reached out to employees in roles that were soon to be obsolete, and advised them to start taking action to learn new skills before roles were eventually eliminated. AT&T offered 100,000 employees in such positions corporate assistance and training to re-direct their employment to more relevant and long term roles.

Healthcare Employment Data 2016-2026, U.S. Bureau of Labor
“Seven Learning and Development Trends to Adopt in 2019,” Forbes September 24, 2018, Cameron Bischop/Forbes Human Resources Council
“University of Minnesota Health Opens Health Clinics and Surgery Centers,” CannonDesign.com
“5 Best Hospitals to Work for in 2018,” Indeed.com and Beckers Hospital Review publication, August 31 2018, Alyssa Rege
“These are the Fastest Growing Healthcare Careers,” May 22 2018, Hospital Recruiting Magazine, Crystal Jones RN
“Employment Training for the Healthcare Industry,” Training Today
“Top 8 Healthcare Predictions for 2018,” Forbes November 13 2018, Reenita Das