When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, a new age of health care began.
Some of the effects of the ACA were immediate—as of 2015, 16.4 million previously uninsured had coverage and access to care. Other goals of the ACA are more long-term, as reform focuses on preventive care and creating a healthier population over time.
But how does the reform affect people working in health care?
Health Care Reform’s Effect on Health Care Professions
The ACA impacts all professionals working in health care, including public health professionals, health care administrators, and nurses.
- Public Health. The ACA has further shifted the health care system’s focus from financially rewarding high cost medical care to one where promoting health and preventing disease results in financial gain. Public health professionals have always had the goal of helping the community stay well, but the ACA moves this goal to the policy forefront. More than ever, public health professionals are being called upon to lead initiatives that remove barriers to screenings and early disease detection, and promote health related behaviors such as physical activity and good nutrition.
- Health Care Administration. To be effective in this new age of health care, health care administrators must be visionary. Leaders need to understand how the radical shift in health policy impacts available resources and the need to rethink strategic direction. Administrators need to explore ways to reduce health care costs while improving quality and operational efficiency. For example, the need to share financial risk and drive better outcomes across the spectrum of health care services means administrators have to partner, collaborate, and negotiate in new ways with each other.
- Nurses have always had significant impact on patient and systems outcomes. Health care reform calls for more robust coordination of care and more attention to transitioning patients to new places and levels of care. Nurses are optimally educated to lead these efforts. The ACA is creating exciting new opportunities for nurses, including in care management and as advanced practice primary care providers. In addition, nurses are being employed in large numbers by payers such as insurance companies to help reduce cost and increase quality outcomes.
Health Care Reform’s Impact on Technology Use
The ACA includes new mandates for information management and sharing in order to assure that data are used to drive change. This area is known as health informatics and plays an important role in the work of all health care professionals. Patient care technologies such as devices that monitor and transmit blood sugar levels and information technologies such as an electronic medical record play a significant role in assuring quality care and safety.
Health informatics results in many benefits including:
- Improved access to health information, especially online. This makes it easier to give patients continuity of care across providers.
- Flexible health care, like online support from nurses and telehealth services. A person’s busy schedule or remote location are no longer a barrier to receiving care.
- Better accountability and improved health outcomes for providers and hospitals through effective tracking and public rating systems.
Health Care Reform’s Impact on Employment and Education
As the ACA expands access to coverage to millions of patients, health care jobs are predicted to increase by nearly 17% by 2024.
To be successful, job candidates need a solid understanding of health care policy, awareness of the growing use of technology, and the ability to evolve with the changing landscape. Many health care professionals are choosing to earn advanced degrees in order to gain the knowledge they need to thrive in a post-ACA world.
Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs in health administration, health care management, informatics, nursing, and public health. Learn more about Capella’s online nursing programs and health care programs.