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Health Care and Life Sciences

With 16 medical centers and hospitals located within the District, DC continues to be a national center for patient care and medical research and the leading medical center of the Greater Washington Area. The healthcare and social assistance sector accounted for 59,000 jobs in the District, with the majority working in hospitals (27,000), ambulatory health care services (20,000), and nursing and residential care facilities (7,000).

The DC metro region also continues to be a hub for biomedical research, anchored by the presence of the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland. The heart of the life sciences industry in the metro area is Montgomery County, Maryland, along the I-270 Corridor, which hosts large employers such as Medimmune and Qiagen. DC’s research universities and the Children’s Research Institute at Children’s National Hospital drive life sciences research within the District, including in areas such as medical devices, genomics, health education, pharmacology, and pediatric research. The presence of major federal health agencies in DC and the DC metro area, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also means that the District has significant influence on healthcare policy.

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Visit the initiatives page and filter Core Sector by “Health and Life Sciences” and “All” to see initiatives that support this sector.  You can also filter Opportunity Area by “Security Technology” and “Data Analysis” to see additional initiatives related to this sector. 

Major Trends Affecting the Sector and Implications

Growing demand for healthcare and life sciences IT and data analytics

Trends: The increasing use of Electronic Health Records (EHR), as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, not only creates opportunities in EHR system design and implementation, but also opportunities to derive insights from the data collected and provide customized care for patients. Moreover, many of the major trends in life sciences research, such as precision medicine and the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, require high levels of data analytics and bioinformatics expertise. The North American health care IT market is forecasted to grow at an annual compounded rate of 13.5% to $104.3 billion from 2015 to 2020, driven in large part by increasing demand for precision medicine, specialized hospital information management systems, and healthcare information exchange systems.1 The increasing digital nature of health records and their inherently sensitive nature creates a need for cybersecurity. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that 175 million personal health data records have been compromised since 2009.2

Implications: There is thus opportunity to build on DC’s strong IT and analytics base, its biomedical expertise, as well as its experience with handling and protecting sensitive data for federal health agencies, to grow health and life sciences IT and data analysis jobs and firms.3

Growing demand for non-hospital health care

Trends: The demand for non-physician medical professionals remains strong nationally.4 By 2022, nearly one in eight U.S. jobs is projected to be in the healthcare sector, due to aging demographics and increased technology needs.5 Within the DC metro region, healthcare employment is projected by the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative to grow 12% by 2021.6 An increased emphasis on ambulatory care, home health, and preventive medicine, in particular, is likely to create significant growth in non-hospital jobs such as home health aides or physical therapists nationwide.

Implications: This suggests an opportunity to align the District’s workforce development plans for those without four-year degrees with the vocational needs of the health care sector.

Significant growth and investment in life sciences in the DC metro area

Trends: As mentioned above, healthcare employment is forecasted to grow significantly over the next several years. IT employment, which can intersect with health and life sciences, is also expected to grow – by 6% by 2021.7 In addition, both Maryland and Virginia are seeing government and venture capital investment in the life sciences sector. For example, Inova Health System announced plans to create a $100 million venture fund for precision medicine investments.

Implications: The BioHealth Capital Region branding campaign spearheaded by MedImmune presents opportunities for DC, Virginia and Maryland to go to market together as a single biotechnology region, competing against other major biomedical research centers such as Boston and San Diego. Growing the region as a biomedical hub would also have implications on the hospitality industry, as DC is already a magnet for medical conferences. There may also be opportunities to bolster intra-regional partnerships in life sciences among the region’s major research institutions such as NIH, local universities, and research hospitals.

  1. Research and Markets. North American Healthcare IT Market by Product. October 2015 <http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/3440202/north-american-healthcare-it-market-by-product>
  2. Data analyzed from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights. <https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf>.
  3. Health Research Institute. “Top Health Industry Issues of 2016.” December 2015.
  4. Weiner, Lena J. “2016 Healthcare Staffing Trends”. HealthLeaders Media. 4 January 2016.
  5. Regence Health. “Top 5 health care industry issues and trends going into 2016.” 17 September 2015.
  6. The Community Foundation. Greater Washington Works: IT and Health Careers with Promise. Accessed 19 December 2016. <https://thecommunityfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Greater-Washington-Works.pdf>.
  7. Ibid.