Medical Workforce

5. Areas for Future Research

We conclude by highlighting a few areas where future research would be valuable. Most of the existing literature on the medical workforce focuses on the US market, and this is particularly true with respect to estimates of labor supply elasticities. Given the importance of institutions and incentives on labor supply and demand, studies that examine non-US markets with differently structured health care systems would help confirm whether the existing findings can be generalized.

One of the most vexing policy challenges is how to improve the value of health care spending. One strategy is to encourage providers to modify the health production function in order to produce greater health at current spending levels, or to spend less without reducing health. To address this challenge policy makers and providers need to understand the health care production function, including how easily inputs can be substituted for one another, how inputs respond to changes in input prices, and how inputs respond to changes in how output is reimbursed. The existing literature on the health care production function is pretty basic and hampered by concerns regarding how to properly measure input and output quality. Finally, new ideas from labor economics on the management of human resources and the motivation of agents could be fruitfully applied to labor supply and demand in health care.

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