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    The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” is making significant impact on the health care industry in the United States. For consumers of health care, some of the implications are quite tangible in terms of access to health care and awareness. For health workers themselves, some of the changes translate into more long-term issues affecting the job market, education, and innovation. According to Dr. Matthew Caines and Dr. Susan Archibald of Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences, individuals with health careers or students pursuing education can expect the ACA to continue to impact careers for years to come. “In terms of job opportunity and schooling expectations, we see the ACA affecting today’s and tomorrow’s health workers in several major areas, specifically insurance implications, data analytics, and disease prevention,” explained Dr. Caines.

    Insurance Implications 

    The ACA offers expanded accessibility for various newer or underserved populations. For the health worker, this additional pool of participants changes the health care landscape so much that dramatic shifts are occurring. For instance, various new job opportunities in health care are expected.* Simply stated, it’s projected that more health care professionals will be needed to handle the increased patient load. This increase in opportunity exists in health care facilities as well as positions with health care insurance providers. In addition, many organizations are looking toward their administrative staff to make shifts in hiring to handle the overload cost effectively. Graduate-trained health professionals provide unique skillset to health organizations needing improvement in business efficiency, effectiveness, and quality.

    Health care administrators are also being called upon to find innovative and creative ways to handle the increase as well as the complexity of treatment that often accompanies some of these underserved populations. For instance, the role of insurance companies is now including a focus on worksite wellness initiatives to lower the cost of care. This creates new and more challenging positions for health care administrators and also impacts the educational path of individuals interested in the field of healthcare administration. “We emphasize that health care leaders of the future need to understand new ways of presenting health care to the masses, while containing costs and being efficient,” said Dr. Archibald. Kaplan University’s Master in Health Care Administration program is designed to prepare students to handle complex new developments in technology, economics, ethics, finance, policy, and management.

    Data Analytics 

    As part of the implementation of the ACA, health care organizations across the nation are transitioning to electronic health records to build an interoperable national data infrastructure. With this huge undertaking comes great opportunity to advance our health care system as well as an immense amount of knowledge and data to be managed and analyzed.

    With the influx of data being obtained and recorded, health professionals have the added obligation of increased information security. Information security experts are necessary to manage data collection and storage. The ACA as well as other federal legislation, such as HIPAA and the HITECH Act, make it necessary for organizations to prove competency and be proficient with this data management process.

    Quality of care and managing health outcomes are also critical components of the ACA. Regulated metrics are reported to government agencies from all facilities. Accrediting bodies collect additional information through various evaluation processes. These programs need to be handled by professionals trained and fluent in the area of data analytics in order to create business intelligence that can be used in a useful, meaningful way. “Ten or 15 years ago, we did not possess the tools to analyze big data the way we are able to do today,” said Dr. Caines. “New innovations in technology allow health informatics professionals to provide business intelligence to a health organization. Business intelligence provides insights to improve an organization. For the health industry, these insights might help improve efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of health services,” he added. According to Dr. Caines, two Kaplan University graduate programs relate to the management and analysis of data: the Master of Health Informatics program and the Master of Health Information Management program.

    Disease Prevention 

    Another major area affected by the ACA is our country’s public health system. “Many people are under the misconception that the ACA deals mainly with health insurance, but this health policy also provides funding and new opportunities for the fields of public health and health education/promotion,” said Dr. Caines. For instance, the ACA established the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The ACA provides funding for public health professionals to operate within the industry and have job security. In addition, new policies within the ACA may allow for the development of additional jobs in the public health arena. One example is a regulation that requires restaurants with over 20 locations to document caloric value for nutrition on their menus.

    Kaplan University offers a Master in Public Health program, and as Dr. Caines points out, all professionals in the health industry are expected to work together. “The scope of public health, health care administration, health informatics/information management, and health education/promotion is quickly becoming cross-disciplinary,” he said. “Health professionals clearly understand their main field or niche, but also have working knowledge of the other health professions,” said Dr. Caines.

    “Career paths open up when an individual can cross over among disciplines, such as health care administration, public health, health informatics, health information management and health education,” Dr. Archibald added. “We strive to educate our students to be flexible, move within the industry, and be open to continuous and cross-disciplinary training,” she said. “It’s vital to stay current with the constant changes our health care industry endures.” 

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    And if you are considering pursuing a health sciences degree, we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.

    *National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.



     

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