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Benefits of Healthcare Jobs Spur Ongoing Debate

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 6, 2012

"I just got back from Cleveland. Without the developments in healthcare in Cleveland you could wrap it up in a paper bag and blow it away. I spent most of my career in Philadelphia. What is the economy of Philadelphia? It's four medical schools and the university," Cooper says. "What are young people going to do? They aren't going to work in a brewery and an automobile plant is all robots. This is the way the economy is moving. It isn't Chicken Little the sky is falling in. You fight this and you are fighting the economy."

Carnevale says data shows that more people are hired at a faster rate in healthcare than output is increasing, which translates into negative productivity. Cooper doesn't disagree with the data, but he says the comparison is misleading and does not take into account the complexity of healthcare. Treating patients is not the same as the manufacturing process.

"If you buy more iPads you aren't creating more jobs here because they're made in China. Healthcare has a different product and it's hard to measure the productivity of the product," he says.

"So if the worker is putting in an artificial knee it takes so much time, or the healthcare worker is doing a throat swab to test for strep throat, how do you measure that productivity? You can't really increase the rate of throat swabs. So, worker productivity tends not to increase because they can't do it faster."

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