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COVID-19 hugely alters work environment for pharma & healthcare as re-skilling takes centrestage: Sumit Kumar

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Tuesday, June 30, 2020, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world of work in the last 3 months making pharma and healthcare to have a re-look at their business models with a focus on automation and digitization, said Sumit Kumar, vice president, NETAP, TeamLease Services.

Processes are being re-worked to adapt during the ongoing pandemic. The intent is to prepare for businesses to be able to scale-up post the pandemic.  Here, we see when organizations reorient, it is the workforce which is the central point of the change strategy. The workforce transformation happens not just with skilling but a need for behavioral change along with an undue importance to health and safety that will enable people adapt to the new normal, he added.

Both pharma and healthcare are witnessing a rapid change as the pandemic has accelerated the need for automation and digitization. As workplace distancing and restricted workforce becomes a new norm, organizations are opting for multi-shifts to ensure the desired production capacity. In many areas, productivity is affected which has compelled midsized organizations for a rapid adoption of automation as large ones ramp up their existing systems, Kumar told Pharmabiz.

Even in automation, organizations need skilled people to be able to adjust to the new systems like managing robots, troubleshooting, complex testing, maintenance- repair of equipment, safety procedures, creative thinking, and have strong communication skills to interact with the development teams.

Hence the demand for skilled workforce is on the rise and accessing trained human resources is a challenge as the current vocational education does not stress on automation and digitization. This has led organizations to invest in skilling to address the challenge. Here companies can hire fresh graduates and skill them through ‘learning by doing’ programmes to create a pool of productive human resources.  

Apprenticeships are also ideal for talent creation. Indian industry is experiencing migration of labour and the scare of the coronavirus disease has led to scarcity of workforce. Companies need to restore the confidence in their labour force, ensure their safety and welfare to woo them back.  At the same time resorting to skilling programmes would offset the shortfall, he noted.  

On the healthcare front, the demand during the pandemic is for doctors, paramedics, nurses, home care professionals and lab technicians. Need for skilled professionals in healthcare will see a spike. As per WHO, India does not meet the requirement of 44.5 skilled workers per 10,000 population. In fact, the current scenario has widened the gap despite hiring for an estimated 5 million healthcare workers.

The medical technology front is also scouting for candidates with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI). The aim is to spur diagnosis and decrease the time to market of medicines from drug discovery phase to clinical trials in a transparent, high quality standard and efficient manner. It is also estimated that to overcome the shortage, India needs to increase the healthcare spend which is 1.29% of the GDP as against China’s 2.9%.

The count of infected people is rapidly growing each day as there is need for a cure and hospitalization. This has increased the demand for medical insurance claims processing by the TPAs (third party administrators ) which will require people to manage the disbursements.  Here too job opportunities have increased in data management and documentation.


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