Can the gig economy help lower healthcare costs? Find out how telemedicine and virtual healthcare are changing the healthcare landscape.
$3.3 trillion, that's how much the US spent on healthcare in 2016, accounting for nearly 20% of GDP. Healthcare spending continues to rise almost 10% a year, outpacing inflation, corporate profits, and personal salaries, all putting an incredible strain on the US economy. The healthcare industry must adapt and evolve more cost-effective ways to deliver care without crippling our nation's bottom line.
One untapped opportunity that may help lower healthcare cost and help the medical workforce is the gig economy.
What Is This Gig Economy?
The "gig economy" already impacts your life even if you are not familiar with the term. Have you taken a Lyft or Uber lately? Received a package delivery from Amazon Prime Now? Or even hired a freelance designer on 99designs or Upwork? The gig economy is quietly transforming our lives. As consumers, we benefit from these incredibly convenient and cost-effective services.
From a workforce perspective, the gig economy offers flexibility and life autonomy for comparable salaries as traditional jobs. Gig economy job opportunities generally operate on short-term contracts, more commonly referred to as freelance work. Apps or platforms, such as Uber or Upwork, facilitate the connection between the gig worker and you, the consumer.
The Gig Economy Gives Freedom to the Freelancers
Today, gig economy workers account for 15% of the working population. Many headlines about companies like Uber portray the gig economy as a way to take advantage of workers and reduce employed positions. But, the gig economy as a whole tells a much different story. The gig economy isn't made up of unemployed people looking for work. In fact, the majority of workers in this economy aren't even interested in a long-term position; 63% of freelancers stated that they started freelancing by choice and not because of necessity.
By 2027, freelancers are expected to become the workforce majority based on the current growth rate and due to factors such as freedom, flexibility, and the ability to earn extra money. Today, nearly 50% of Millennial workers are already a part of the gig economy.
The Gig Economy's Entry into Healthcare
The healthcare industry has already begun to adopt gig economy solutions. This is evident in the shift toward hiring temporary employees and medical staff. The trend has started with nurses, as we face a nationwide shortage, and has expanded to include other allied health positions and non-clinical staff.
The gig economy is now coming to physicians thanks to platform companies that make it easier for doctors to find flexible jobs, as well as the growing digital health industry. Both the hiring platforms and the growing digital health industry are allowing more flexibility in how and where doctors can deliver medical care.
Why It Works for Healthcare Employers
For healthcare employers, talent shortages are the primary motivating factor (as an example, the US is expected to see a shortage of 40,000 to 104,000 physicians by 2030).
But this isn't the only reason for this development. Healthcare spending is skyrocketing for many reasons: chronic illness, aging populations, and the uncertainty of the US health insurance market - all of which account for increased healthcare consumption.
Why Medical Professionals Are Embracing "Gigs"
More than ever, healthcare professionals are finding flexible work options to be more attractive and lucrative. As healthcare consumption continues to grow and the percentage of millennials (a generation that wants to work flexibly and consume services like healthcare conveniently) that make up the workforce rises, this trend will continue to increase 10-15% annually.
Doctors are craving flexible alternatives. As of 2017, 16% of physicians reported plans to leave traditional, full-time, clinical employment in the next year.
Ultimately, the gig economy can make healthcare staffing easier and more flexible for both employers and medical professionals. Healthcare institutions can hire temporary workers when they need them most, and professionals can find the opportunities that best suit their needs.
Temporary staffing is not a novel concept in healthcare. For years hospitals have relied on the services of per diem and travel nurses. Such employment relationships traditionally have been facilitated by specialized job agencies. However, the agencies that historically provided these services are slow and expensive. Today, new platform-driven models like Wheel, Medley, and Nomad are expanding the options for medical professionals while making the hiring more cost-effective for companies. Based on the current trends, it is exceedingly likely that similar web-based gig-economy companies will dominate the temporary staffing market in the coming years.
The Future: Healthcare Where You Are
The gig economy is already altering the way healthcare is managed and delivered. Digital health technology innovation is also changing how doctors connect with patients. In the future, care delivery will be more decentralized and mobile. Telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and digital health tracking will make it easier than ever to treat patients from a distance rather than going to a hospital.
At Wheel, our platform is already connecting doctors to gig jobs in traditional hospitals, and also in technology-driven gigs like working in an e-ICU where a medical team can treat intensive unit patients in hundreds of hospitals from one hub location. Or doctors can find telemedicine jobs with virtual care companies, like Doctor on Demand, who provide on-demand urgent care and mental health care to thousands of patients nationwide. Instead of a doctor being exhausted on their feet in a hospital for 60 hours a week, they can work 2-3 days a week at home. Medical professionals can work where and when they want, and patients get the benefit of the right care at the right time.
The gig workers get the flexibility they desire with compensation, similar to traditional jobs. And the companies get flexible scheduling options to shift with demand. While platforms like Wheel facilitate the gig connection for a fraction of the cost of traditional recruiting agencies or brokers.
The changing landscape of job preferences and technology-enabled care delivery will only accelerate the healthcare gig economy's growth.
If you are a physician that wants to expand your horizons with telemedicine, sign up for telehealth opportunities with Wheel today.