I recently had the pleasure of attending this year’s AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) Institute. Like most attendees, I was there to gather insights and information to make me better at what I do. As an executive search professional and talent acquisition consultant, this year’s conference gave me a lot to think about as far as the future talent needs of this changing industry are concerned.

Since every organization needs people in order to be successful, I’m sharing my perspectives below on nine key trends, themes and “buzzwords” as well as their implications on talent. I hope you’ll find this of interest – don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.

Trend #1

The Focus Has Shifted From The “Traditional” Payer. Payers are very aware that healthcare is now consumer and provider-centric and are developing new products and services to improve those relationships. They are accomplishing this either by acquiring hospitals and physician groups, technology companies and data collection companies OR by hiring individuals with proven experience from the provider side or from companies with outstanding reputations for taking care of customers. This is a big change because health care companies have historically been resistant to hiring from outside the industry. However, with the huge focus on customer service, there is a need to recruit top talent from proven leaders outside of health care.

Trend #2

The Emergence of Data and Technology Companies. We saw a number of these companies exhibiting this year at the Institute. This definitely seems like the dawning of the data era in health care. Health information exchanges will continue to grow and innovation is ahead of the curve. These companies make the collection and utilization of data easier for the payer and provider. Many already employ individuals with healthcare experience but many do not. These individuals are coming from more traditional technology and transaction-focused companies. In particular, individuals who know how to capture data and then know what to do with it are in demand. In the same vein, talent with social media experience is in demand, regardless of whether individuals have a healthcare background.

Trend #3

It’s All About “Population Health”. Population health is defined as the health outcomes of a group of individuals including the distribution of such outcomes within the group. This presents a potent opportunity for health care delivery systems, health care payers, public health care agencies, ancillary providers and community-based organizations to join together to improve the outcomes of the populations they serve. The major implication for talent is that individuals with knowledge of the entire spectrum of health care will be in great demand. These individuals will understand how various companies and or industry segments affect one another. The ability to innovate and drive change will be instrumental.

Trend #4

Shared Risk, Accountable Care Organizations and Quality: In order for health care reform to work, there needs to be a strong partnership between the payer and the provider. ACOs continue to have a solid footprint and health systems that do not currently participate are in the planning or building process. In some cases, these entities are actually merging in order to provide the consumer a more seamless health care experience. They are sharing risk and acquiring technology to make the consumer experience more efficient. There is a strict focus on quality metrics and those that can maintain high quality standards, while driving growth, will create opportunities for themselves and their companies. The end result is that we’ll see more mobility: those with payer experience will more readily transition to the provider side and vice versa.

Trend #5

The Move Toward Health and Wellness Is Accelerating. Wearable fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike Fuel are playing a big role with payers, providers and employers in what is undoubtedly the beginning of a bigger trend. We’ll increasingly see companies like these looking to hire individuals with strong internal knowledge of the payer – and the provider – and vice versa. Additionally, we’ll see an upturn in demand for “Big Data” experts who can collect, analyze and use the data to improve the health and wellness of employee populations.

Trend #6

It’s All About Customer Service for Members. The member’s time has come, slowly but surely. From the growing number of smaller technology and data collection companies present at the conference, it’s evident that both payers and providers are focused on gathering not only population data but data on individual members as well. This focus ensures superior outcomes for any patient encounter. Quality of care and profits are more closely tied together than ever before, creating a growing demand for all roles whether it be the front line (RNs and customer service) or executive leadership (operations and finance) that positively affect quality patient outcomes.

Trend #7

Both Payers and Providers Recognize That Members Have Choices And Are Striving to Create Better User Experiences. As a result, new positions are being created for high level customer service or member experience professionals. These individuals know how to build a consumer-focused organization. They have strong backgrounds in capturing data and using that data to help either the payer or the provider deliver superior outcomes. Individuals who understand how to collect customer satisfaction data are important. Knowing what to do with that information is critical.

Trend #8

Rapid Growth in Senior Care, Elder Care and End of Life Care. An aging, and enormous, baby boomer population is driving needs in long term care, assisted living, home health care, specialty and infusion services. All of these industries are seeing growth as a result of our aging boomer population. Within this growing segment, the demand for all roles is quickly expected to outstrip supply. This industry will continue to see a demand for people who understand the payer and provider sides and how to partner with both of these industries. Within this segment, we are also seeing the birth of new business such as those that monitor in-home activity for the senior population. These new companies will demand innovative talent that understands how to adhere to strict quality standards while driving growth.

Trend #9

Ancillary Providers Provide a Path for a Healthier Member Experience. There is a bigger emphasis on behavioral health, pharmacy, vision and dental benefits because customers value them when selecting a health plan. Often the payer is able to use the data collected by these companies to track how their members are, or are not, using their services. We’ll continue to see a growing need for talent among the ancillary providers, especially in sales and account management as well as for people with knowledge of the payer and how the payer contracts with the ancillary provider.

Reality Check

The health care leaders of today and tomorrow will need to be far more flexible and adaptable to change than ever before. They must have a relentless focus on customer satisfaction and be able to do far more with far less. The leaders of the future will understand how to gather data and – more importantly – know what to do with it.They will understand their own weaknesses and how to hire to fill those gaps. They will embrace technology and the possibilities that it creates and understand how to implement those possibilities throughout their organizations.

Learn more at www.TalentRISE.com

Brad Newpoff

About the Author

Brad is a respected executive search consultant with nearly two decades of experience in c-suite and executive recruitment in multiple industries.

Tags: ACO, AHIP Conference 2014 recap, healthcare, payor, provider, talent trends, talentrise, tips