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Need for more skilled workforce in healthcare system

Biju Nair
Thursday, November 24, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The expansion of super-specialty hospitals that provide cutting-edge tertiary care, major Indian cities have turned into hotspots for medical tourism. People from all over the world come to the country for healthcare because of the high quality of care and reasonable cost of treatment. The healthcare delivery system in India was taken by the storm when the Covid-19 pandemic hit us bringing out multiple gaps.

The workforce in healthcare is facing many challenges, notably the availability of a skilled and technically-competent workforce, the lack of women in leadership positions, and the adaptability of digitization. These challenges can be mitigated with organized campaign strategies that involve both central, state-level machinery, and corporate alike.

Lack of women in leadership positions
Women in India have taken the lead in transforming their communities. They play crucial leadership responsibilities and implement beneficial improvements that last for years to come.

According to research that was published in the medical journal Lancet, women make up 71 per cent of the world’s health care professionals. While both men and women make similar early development, there are many opportunities for interruptions as we go into subsequent periods. Compared to men, women have a five times lesser chance of moving up to senior positions. The intercultural differences between genders, particularly those relating to how each gender sees themselves professionally or what type(s) of work assignments he/she would prefer, present challenges for them in not only achieving leadership positions but also remaining in these roles for an extended period of time.

Poor wages, family obligations, the harsh reality of gender prejudice and harassment, a lack of networks and support systems, and low compensation are some of their biggest obstacles.

Advantages of women in leadership positions
Studies prove that having women in leadership roles increases the productivity of the organization and maximizes the value of other female employees. According to a study, it was estimated that women in health contribute five per cent to global GDP (US$ 3 trillion) annually. However, almost 50 per cent of this is unrecognized and unpaid.

To implement women-centric initiatives, there must be a greater representation of women in positions of decision-making. The inclusivity and resilience of our society must grow if we are to enhance the health of everyone. To ensure that everyone’s voice is heard when it should matter the most, varied viewpoints must be included into every area of decision-making, from research policies and resource allocation to finance schemes.

Need for more skilled workforce
As per the 2016 annual report of the Medical Council of India (MCI), India had nearly 0.9 million physicians, or one physician per 1,668 patients. In order to reach to the ratio of one physician per 1000 patients, India would need more than two million physicians by 2030. Not only for doctors, but there is a shortage in overall skilled healthcare workforce including nursing, pharmacists, radiographers, laboratory technicians, and other health workers. India needs to focus on investing in resources to increase healthcare workforce.

We require 23 health professionals for every 10,000 people, according to WHO standards. However, India is on par with many other industrialised nations in terms of the quality of medical care and patient attention. This is mainly due to the growth of the private healthcare industries, which now meet 70 per cent of healthcare demands. For the entire nation, though, this is still insufficient.

On the other side, the public sector is struggling with issues including poor pay scales, a lack of infrastructure and amenities in rural regions, and an overworked trained healthcare personnel that is forcing people to leave or migrate to other job fields.

Challenges onboarding healthcare workers
Another major challenge faced by healthcare institutions is in onboarding healthcare workers in the country.  Hospitals and health care centers have a high-churning and fast-paced environment across states.  Most of the skilled workforce has immense knowledge but lacks the skill or the practical knowledge of working on the ground. This is the reality.

They require more training and take time to adapt to their work. It becomes an added responsibility of the center to spend time and resources in order to train the new staff on how to perform their duties. How can we solve this? It is essential for the education system to partner with hospital management and activate practical processes to prepare the healthcare workforce to jumpstart their career after education. This will increase the productivity of the staff and help in catering to more patients efficiently.

Digitization in healthcare sector
The substantial roles that various internet platforms have played, notably in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak, have drawn attention to the significance of digital healthcare. In addition to accelerating India’s internet penetration rates, it helped the healthcare sector innovate and digitalize rapidly.

Hospitals are now largely relied upon by the public to address the serious health challenges brought on by the recent coronavirus outbreak. In such a case, technology is crucial in every aspect, including the supply chain, patient registration, and physician assistant. Newer technology is enabling healthcare businesses to develop at a far faster rate and are giving them possibilities across the nation. Furthermore, with help from government initiatives like National Digital Health Mission or Make in India the healthcare sector can work towards improving patient outcomes.

The peak of the mortality epidemic has shown that telemedicine and virtual care models may save lives. As a result, many patients in rural or remote, far-flung areas could access high-quality healthcare by seeking online consultation for the treatment they require without having to travel far from their homes simply because there isn’t enough medical staff locally who can treat them right away with little wait time. Despite the advantages, this has several disadvantages, such as a lack of clear rules, unethical behavior, the overuse of prescription drugs due to false prescriptions, among other issues.

Digital technology adaptation
In addition to telemedicine, many other facets of the healthcare industry are being transformed by digital technology. The fourth industrial revolution is currently taking place, and robots and artificial intelligence are changing many aspects of our environment quickly. These developments will make it simpler for healthcare facilities to maintain databases, track patients, manage the supply chain, pay claims, and other activities. While enhancing overall efficiency, it will also improve customer satisfaction.

However, the majority of the present healthcare personnel is not educated to use such technologies and prefers the conventional approaches. Here, the difficulty is in this workforce’s capacity to adjust to digitalization. How can we teach and educate all staff members about recent innovations? One strategy to start the digital transformation in the hospital environment is to set up innovation laboratories and digital learning spaces. They may keep up with the newest market developments by setting up CME (continuing medical education) programmes and sessions on the newest advancements and technology. To assist employees in adjusting to digitalization, it is critical to engage in such projects.

To conclude, digitization is the ray of hope and the key to overcome many challenges faced by the Indian healthcare workforce.  India will definitely be one of the leading healthcare providers across the world in the coming years.

(The author is Cluster COO, Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru)


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