What's on the Health Care Horizon?

Director, School for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Arizona State University

Apr   2013



Pretty much all careers evolve, but perhaps none more so than at the breakneck speed of health care. Those bioengineers, always starting something! To keep up, we asked Dr. William Riley, Director of Arizona State University's School for the Science of Health Care Delivery, what’s on the health care horizon? If you’re thinking about health care studies (or are already ankle-deep in them!), listen up to what he had to say . . .

How should college students with an interest in health and medicine investigate new and existing careers?
Current college students who are interested in working in the health care industry should take a close look at the sector they would like to enter and gather as much information about how that particular field is evolving and changing. For example, we are currently seeing a shift in health care jobs. A career in health care is no longer confined to hospitals and government agencies. Home health services is one of the fastest-growing careers of 2013 and is expected to see growth beyond this year. Additionally, health/health care is no longer limited to medicine. Students may find their interest is in health promotion or healthy lifestyle coaching. The term health means a great deal, so exploring the various opportunities associate would be of great benefit to interested students.

How are health care careers adapting to new regulations, technology, and societal expectations? What new skills do practitioners need?
Since the complex health care system is growing and changing rapidly, future professionals need to hone new skills to reflect these changes. To address this growth, universities are expanding graduate programs to create more diverse courses targeting current and future health care executives. For example, Arizona State University is launching a new master’s program in the fall of 2013 called the Master of Science in the Science of Health Care Delivery. This new degree program is part of a new academic unit, the School for the Science of Health Care Delivery, which launched at ASU in January of 2013. The program will focus on the “science” behind health care delivery (policy, technology, preventative care, etc.) to better prepare graduates for the challenges faced in the health care industry today. Students will explore the other facets related to health care outside of medicine, including exposure to system design/architecture, statistical analysis/data considerations in health care, leadership in a health care setting, health law/policy, economics, and others.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in health care in recent years? What changes are expected in the future?
There are several forces driving much needed change to our health system. New policies, incentives, and people’s expectations will inform and influence how we deliver health going forward. As such, there is a need for people who can look critically and holistically at these forces of change, and create new ways, systems, and processes to improve health outcomes and lower costs. I think the driving forces behind the changes are two-fold: First, our current health care system is broken: Americans spend more than 17% of the gross domestic product each year on health care with suboptimal results. In fact, the United States is ranked 37th in the world for its health care system and 29th in terms of life expectancy, yet spends more than twice the amount on health care as a percentage of its GDP than the next closest country. Second, our population is aging: baby boomers will demand different health care attention. More people are working longer, living longer, and are mobile longer. Baby boomers will be interested in home health/care or alternatives to traditional nursing homes as compared to generations before.

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About William Riley

Dr. William Riley is the Director of Arizona State University's School for the Science of Health Care Delivery.