On a macro level, in January of this year alone, more than 36,000 jobs were added to the nation’s hospitals and health systems, building on a strong 2015 where more than 438,000 jobs were created. There are no signs of a slowdown as an estimated two-million more positions will open up by 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The changing industry landscape and the shift in current roles and responsibilities provide prime opportunities for professionals in the health care sector to advance their career through continued education. One of the fastest growing disciplines for graduate and post-graduate studies is health care law, according to Lawyer & Statesman magazine. This rapid growth was spurred, in part, by the ongoing impact of the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA).
Today, health care law isn’t only for practicing attorneys. A health law knowledge base can prove valuable across a wide spectrum of issues related to regulatory compliance, risk management, malpractice, ethics and patient privacy. This knowledge can be a vital asset when managing day-to-day activities in the health care and also create added value for employers. Some schools, like Concord Law School of Kaplan University’s online Executive Juris Doctor program, offer a curriculum to meet this demand.
The need for legal expertise spreads far and wide, but there are several key areas that particularly stand out. Regulatory Compliance is one such area. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 propelled growth in this area and regulatory compliance has been one of the fastest-growing professions over the past 15 years. Health care professionals in a wide range of positions including those who work with electronic health records, Medicare or Medicaid requirements, or the various requirements from the ACA could benefit from knowledge of legal issues related to regulatory compliance.
Ethics, which in some respects is a subspecialty of regulatory compliance, is particularly important for professionals working in facilities where research also takes place. Bioethical principles and standards cover areas such as human subject research, genetic privacy, patient rights, rehabilitation ethics and more.
Risk management is a discipline that focuses on reducing errors to protect patients as well as health care employers. This includes provider and institutional liability, notification and apology programs, risk assessments, patient safety, and adverse event reporting.
As new job opportunities arise, and current roles shift and evolve to meet new regulations and laws, there will naturally be a growing need for health professionals with a strong background in the law, and having that skill set should prove to be a real career asset.