The United States is currently weathering a healthcare worker shortage that is estimated to get quite a bit worse before it gets better. According to healthcare staffing consultancy Mercer, to cover the needs of an aging population as baby boomers sail into their golden years, the U.S. will need to hire 2.3 million new health care workers by 2025. The problem, according to Mercer’s data, is that there is already a shortage of the kinds of skilled workers the healthcare vertical needs — particularly among doctors, dentists, nurses and health aides. The biggest number of shortages will be among home health aides, where there are currently nearly half a million unfilled positions.
As an industry, there could be hundreds of thousands of unfilled healthcare positions over the next several years.
“Few other industries are racing the clock to find a future-ready workforce like today’s health care administrators,” Jason Narlock, senior consultant with Mercer, told CNN.
It is a complicated problem owing to many factors, Boon founder and CEO Ryan Vet noted in a recent interview — not the least of which is healthcare work is, by nature, hard work. It’s highly skilled and in many cases requires certain intangible personality traits that are hard to teach. Vet’s mother is an RN, he said, which means he understands can’t overstate how hard and prone to burnout healthcare work is just in its nature.
But, he noted, layering in over top of those baked-in difficulties is the reality that many of the processes around healthcare staff are often terrible and tend to increase burnouts and dropouts even more with loads of friction for providers and workers.
“There is a desperate need for solutions here,” Vet said.
Boon is a proprietary marketplace aimed at starting to do better by bringing the gig economy’s on-demand service to the world of healthcare staffing by connecting licensed healthcare professionals to contract work opportunities on demand. Launched this month in the research triangle, the marketplace’s goal is to take the opacity out of the temporary and contract staffing world in medicine in the hopes of providing something that works better for both parties involved.
The High Price Of Opaque Systems
Boon started with temporary and contract medical staffing as its target areas for a simple reason: that is where the problems are most visibly dysfunctional for both sides of the transaction.
What mostly happens when contract staff is needed for a set term, Vet explained, is that the provider will seek out a third-party staffing agency to provide them the properly qualified candidate. That process is generally costly, so bringing on these staff members usually creates an awful lot of overhead for practices. And more problematic: what the provider is paying for is not always clear or all that necessary. There are often fees that are hidden, high multiples on hourly labor or substantial subscriptions costs.
“Practices are up against higher turnover than before and are faced with a heavily burdened overhead when it comes to bringing in new temporary team members. In an effort to solve both the problems that providers and practices face, Boon has created a marketplace.”” Vet said.
Bringing in temporary staff in the medical fields shouldn’t require either a terribly inefficient in-house search or a costly black box that benefits neither of the direct participants in the transaction, he asserted.
What Boon offers as a replacement to that is a two-sided marketplace that is free for healthcare workers to list their services, training and availability and free for providers looking for staffing to search to fill their needs. “The pricing,” Vet notes, “is built to be entirely transparent for both sides.”
“All parties will know exactly what they will be compensated before a shift is ever assigned. No surprises,” he said. “Unlike many traditional temporary staffing agencies, we are giving all the power back to both the hiring party and the working party.”
Boon does charge a fee to both sides of the transaction — but only after the job is agreed upon. Boon also provides more than an open job board, in essence, because the app pushes potential matches via hiring managers — and those matches are algorithmically generated to create the best fit based on factors such as technology utilization skills, past experience, availability and personality traits. The site also offers an in-depth rating system so that providers can get a clearer view of the whole background of workers.
The “gig model,” he noted, generally creates a better situation for the workers themselves, who tend to be able to command better hourly rates when they are working directly with the hiring practices.
The Importance of Security
Services marketplaces, particularly those built around skilled or specialized workers, have the greatest responsibility to make sure that the employee who shows up is exactly who they say they are, and they can do what they claim to be able to do. Care.com has been on the receiving end of many accusations of negligence because improperly screened and vetted employees have at times done damage.
In the context of healthcare, someone faking their identity or qualifications is not a funny story because the outcomes can be so severe. That is why Boon does its own internal and in-house vetting and screening for licenses, certifications, training etc, and submits anyone who wants to list on the platform to an outside, third-party background check before their listing is complete.
Initially, Boon will be focused on the dental industry — and it is already up and running in the North Carolina Research Triangle area. The goal is to add medical and even veterinary services in the coming months.