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Global economic and political turmoil and the climate change crisis may dominate headlines but arguably the biggest threat to global wellbeing is the state of our health care services. In his latest book, global healthcare leader Dr. Mark Britnell, cites a World Health Organisation estimate that by 2030 the world will be short of approximately 18 million health workers – a fifth of the workforce needed to keep healthcare systems going.
Digital disruption is changing industries globally – yet despite the fact that upwards of 36% of healthcare work could be automated, in far too many cases there is a resistance to better using technology to automate administrative and non-clinical activities. While the NHS is considering the use of AI in interpreting 3D scans for diagnosis and referral, for example, the majority of Trusts are still reliant on totally manual processes for bed management.
Deb Sutton, Director of Client Support, TeleTracking, explains the importance of leveraging proven technology to transform bed management and release highly skilled and motivated clinical staff to deliver patient care, while longer term plans for recruiting and retaining new clinical staff come to fruition.
In the UK, 9.2% of all NHS posts are vacant – a fact that will come as no surprise to anyone on the front line of healthcare delivery. The problem is far from limited to the UK. Globally the shortfall of healthcare workers is predicted to hit 18 million by 2030 and while politicians consistently acknowledge the issue, to date no country has managed to solve this problem.
As Dr. Mark Britnell points out, while politicians laud healthcare staff and celebrate the creation of additional jobs, they have failed to plan how to fill these jobs. Furthermore, they proclaim the value of technology yet fail to prepare for digital disruption. Indeed, in many cases, opportunities to embrace technology that could transform existing processes are actively ignored.
Dr Britnell has suggested ten changes required to address the global health worker crisis, ranging from productivity and new models of care, to communities as carers and creating a managed and motivated workforce. This latter point is absolutely fundamental: while many countries are working to encourage more people into the workforce, training these individuals takes years. To address the current decline in existing clinical staff, health services need to act now to address, for instance, the fact that 76% of doctors and 79% of nurses perform tasks for which they are overqualified and in far too many cases, such work is not even clinical.
Clinical staff across the board want to care. Far too many, however, are forced to prioritise admin. Nurses, for example, are continually dragged away from patients to respond to phone calls regarding current and likely bed availability. When hospitals are in crisis, senior nursing teams can meet up to five times a day, for 60-90 minutes each time, discussing patient discharges and bed management, meaning up to 7.5 hours a day is spent on administration rather than care. No wonder one of the main staff complaints is a lack of time to engage with patients.[iii]