Who would have thought the healthcare sector would shed tens of thousands of physician jobs in a matter of weeks due to a lack of patients? Yet that is exactly what happened when the nation began its coronavirus lockdown. The good news is that physician jobs are on the rise again. The slow post-lockdown recovery has begun.
Though you would not think physicians would lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic, it happened. Primary care doctors working in group practices were not needed once those practices were closed. In hospitals, the cessation of elective procedures left thousands of physicians with nothing to do.
The impetus behind halting all non-critical care was to ensure the healthcare system had enough resources to tackle coronavirus infections. Yet the scientific community’s worst fears never came to fruition. And without patients to treat, doctors were sent home.
More Jobs in May
States are now gradually beginning to end the lockdown restrictions. In many states, hospitals are once again open for elective procedures. Private and group practices are reopening as well, even though social distancing and hygiene precautions are in place. That means doctors are starting to return to work.
According to Fierce Healthcare, the healthcare sector added some 312,000 jobs in May. Approximately 51,000 of them were physician jobs. Interestingly, the dental sector added the most jobs in May with 244,000. The overall point here is that healthcare is adding jobs because facilities are reopening. That is good news.
Some Jobs Will Be Different
Getting clinicians back to work is good for them, their patients, and the healthcare sector as a whole. Yet not all physician jobs will be the same in a post-lockdown world. For instance, a greater emphasis on telehealth could mean that some physicians return to a completely different work environment.
Telehealth’s emergence is likely to lead to a growing number of physicians leaving traditional jobs in order to take new positions as telehealth providers. And even among those who return to the same jobs they left behind telehealth may play a bigger role in what they do day-to-day.
It is entirely possible that the rise of telehealth will give rise to a new form of primary care that combines technology and traditional practice. For example, imagine a primary care physician who reduces office time to the bare minimum. He sees as many patients as possible remotely. House calls and office visits are available when necessary.
More App Driven Medicine
Physicians returning to work might also be presented with new opportunities to practice app-based medicine. In other words, do not be surprised to see a number of tech startups jump into the field of on-demand medicine with primary care apps powered by doctors and NPs who believe in the viability of telehealth.
There may not be thousands of such jobs currently available on sites like Health Jobs Nationwide, but things could change completely in the coming months. App-driven medicine is not the stuff of sci-fi films and books. It is coming. The only question is how much time it will take for the model to become the norm for primary care.
The future of healthcare aside, physicians can take comfort in the fact that facilities are opening and patients are visiting. Physician jobs are beginning the slow post-lockdown recovery that so many doctors have been waiting for. It is only a matter of time before we are back to discussing the physician shortage and how our system will overcome it. In light of what coronavirus did to healthcare jobs across the board, a physician shortage does not seem so bad.