Healthcare for everyone, everywhere, however, will remain a pipe dream until the personnel shortfall is addressed. People in healthcare are in short supply. The World Health Organization predicts a deficit of 18 million health professionals, about 20% worldwide, by 2030. When asked, the global audience of healthcare executives rated the severity of the crisis at 7 of 10. What happened to get to this position, and what would it take to fix it? The goal of the Executive Summit 2022 in the second part of the day was to deeply evaluate the workforce crisis issue and to explore short and long-term ways to decrease workload while maintaining and replenishing staff.
Examining the situation in the United Kingdom helps illustrate the seriousness of the crisis. A nation that 74 years ago had the same ambition as today of providing equitable access for everyone, based on need and not on wealth, currently has 7 million people waiting up to two years for treatment. However, this is not something that occurred overnight or during COVID-19; 15,000 beds were missing in 2017, a figure that has increased over the last year.
To minimize the patient waiting list, the UK plans to act on three levels: investing in the assumption that 30% more patients would arrive in the next five years, separating urgent and elective care, and improving the diagnostic infrastructure. Apps, robots, AI, capsule endoscopies, and other aids for supporting individuals in new settings are some examples of technology being used to stimulate patients toward greater ownership and choice.
The use of drones to transport supplies from the hospital to the patient's home is another example of how technology will facilitate the transfer of care to the patient's place of residence. The grounds for the UK’s decision to transfer care closer to home and elective care out of hospitals and into communities is to keep patients out of a potentially unsafe environment while also freeing up professional resources. As an added incentive, there is a financial upside for both healthcare organizations and their patients.
So far, £500 million has been allocated to create new community diagnostic clinics, surgical hubs, and urgent elective care protection. Moreover, healthcare services aim to establish a worldwide virtual outpatient service that can be accessed from anywhere globally. One of the major problems that might derail the UK endeavor is the lingering anxiety and fear of the COVID-19 era. Positivity is the key to making it all come true.
Although the current initiatives to address the backlog will be helpful, more is needed if medical professionals are still in short supply. The paradox is that there have never been more people working in healthcare in the UK, despite a shortfall of 130,000 workers. Inevitably, we will fall short of satisfying the rising demand. Short-term alternatives include offering more leeway to current employees and lowering their tasks; medium-term answers include hiring from outside the United States, and long-term solutions include employing technology to maximize efficiency while decreasing costs.
The most pressing issue is how to keep the current workforce; statistics may assist with that. Data suggests that of those who voluntarily left their jobs, 20% retired—and it is not clear whether they were asked to stay at a lesser capacity rather than silently allowing them to retire amid a staffing crisis—20% sought a better work-life balance, 5% desired a higher salary, and 5% quit due to negative working relationships or a lack of appreciation. The last percentage demonstrates the urgent need to create a work environment where employees feel appreciated for their contributions.
The overriding conclusion is that much more has to be done to develop a long-term healthcare strategy and incorporate technology into healthcare routines to move the workforce problem ahead, as explored in further detail in the day's last two sessions.
Further Reading: Insights Series
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