The Threat of VMS – Notes from the Healthcare Staffing Summit 2009 [Pt. 2]

Keynote with Barry Asin: The Future of Healthcare Staffing: Where We’ve Been and Where We are

Barry Asin is the Chief Analyst & Managing Executive, Products for the Staffing Industry AnalystsAs always, Barry
presented a lot of valuable information about the current state of the healthcare
staffing industry last week at the 2009 Healthcare Staffing Summit. I look forward to his presentation every year at the summit. Although much of the news painted a bleak picture for the
foreseeable future, it was interesting to get the data and face reality. Here are the highlights
of his presentation from my notes:

  • Turnover of
    hospital employees has dramatically decreased.
  • There is currently
    a power struggle between hospitals and staffing suppliers and the hospitals are
  • 44% decrease in travel nursing since last year.
  • 33% average decrease among the four largest public healthcare staffing
    companies in the nation (AMN, Cross Country, On Assignment, MSN).
  • The forecast for
    healthcare staffing in 2009 has declined by 25%.
  • Locum Tenens is
    the only area that saw growth in 2009 (9%).
  • 2009 is the first year that Locums has grown more than travel nursing.
  • Predictions for
    healthcare staffing are flat for 2010, with Locums being the only growth
  • ECRI data suggests
    that the recession is over.
  • Most economists
    believe unemployment will level off at 10% by end of 2009.
  • Healthcare reform
    could have a largely positive impact on the healthcare staffing industry
    , specifically
    in the increase for demand in healthcare professionals.
  • 48% of hospitals
    are working with a VMS model
  • VMS is listed in the “threat” category for the industry.
  • “Avoidance” is listed
    as a potential strategy of dealing with VMS.

All of the data
presented seemed reasonably accurate. I took exception with some of the data that
was derived from self-reporting surveys sent in from staffing suppliers. However,
not as much as I did with the SIA’s comments on VMS.

From my point of
view, VMS is an evolution of the industry – not a threat or hindrance to it. VMS providers should not be looked at as vendors to the industry but as major participants in the industry.
Take ShiftWise for example. The founders and executive team are all from the
healthcare staffing industry. We took our knowledge of the industry and used it for the
purposes of advancing it – not hindering it. Suggesting that VMS is a threat to me sounds similar
to record company executives claiming that digital music is a threat to CD
sales. It’s an antiquated perception at best.

At this point, VMS
makes up almost 50% of the market. If it continues to follow the trend of IT
staffing (it’s actually being adopted at a much faster rate) then it’s fair to
suggest that it will soon be over 70% of the market. My question to the SIA is this – When VMS reaches this
level of adoption in the industry, will it still be a threat to the market – or just the market? It seems
to me that anything comprising so much of the market should be looked at as
something to better understand, embrace and use to your advantage (read:
opportunity). Stating that it is a threat seems to imply it is something that
needs to be dealt with and ended. However, it should be obvious now that VMS is
not going away.

Finally, Barry also suggested that “avoidance” is a potential strategy for dealing with VMS. While technically he’s correct, that yes, on the spectrum of choices – avoidance is an option, how is avoiding something that makes up 50% of the market (and could soon be
70%) a good strategy for anything other than going out of business?

My hope is the
same now as it has been for several years – that the SIA will begin to report more
accurately on VMS as to what it actually is; an evolution of the industry and an
opportunity to grow your business as a staffing supplier and operate it more efficiently. As long as the
SIA continues to suggest to the industry that VMS is a threat the suppliers
within the industry will continue to miss out on the opportunity that VMS

Related Posts:

Notes from the Healthcare Staffing Summit [pt. 1]

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