How Technology Can Bridge The Workforce Gap In Healthcare?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. George Mathew, a fourth-year medical student at Medical University – Pleven. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The medical workforce is the backbone of the healthcare system and the recent Covid-19 pandemic showed us exactly that by highlighting the disparities in the need for quality healthcare and the lack of frontline healthcare workers even in the most developed nations.
The latest AAMC report showed that the estimated shortage of physicians in the US by 2034 will be between 37,800 and 124,000.
BMA analysis of OECD data showed that there are only 2.9 doctors per 1000 inhabitants in the UK, which is less than the EU average of 3.7 per 1000 inhabitants.
The main causes for the gap in the healthcare workforce are:

  1. Poor growth rate of the medical workforce
  2. Increase in absences due to stress, depression, and other mental health issues
  3. An aging workforce – in the NHS 13% of secondary care doctors and 18% of GPs will reach the minimum retirement age in the next 10 years.
  4. Doctors retiring early due to a myriad of reasons including increased workload, stress, etc.
  5. Fewer medical schools and medical graduates, with the small number of residency spots causing the bottleneck in the US.
    This disparity in the healthcare workforce and the medical needs of people is most evident during periods of increased strain on the healthcare infrastructure but this insufficiency has effects that are ever-present, like:
  6. Increase in morbidity and mortality within the healthcare system, due to less patient safety and doctor-patient interaction.
  7. Lower quality of medical care
  8. Passing down the increase in the cost of healthcare onto the patients
  9. Increase in the workloads of the healthcare providers leading to more burnouts and proclivity towards early retirement, thus fueling a vicious cycle.
    One of the ways the workforce gap in healthcare can be mitigated is through technological advancements happening in the field of medicine:
  10. Telemedicine: This is a mode of practicing medicine where the physician and patient are in two different locations and the healthcare is provided remotely. This is useful in solving the regional shortage of medical professionals that often occurs in rural areas.
  11. Electronic Health Records: These are digitalized medical charts that help gather and share digital health information of a patient from all points of their life. It helps healthcare professionals make more efficient medical decisions knowing all the relevant information, from one source.
  12. Artificial Intelligence: The potential of artificial intelligence in medicine can be vast but what it can certainly provide right now is assistance in reading radiological images for radiologists and other healthcare professionals easing their workload and increasing their efficiency.
  13. Blockchain-enabled Profession Document Verification Platforms: Healthcare employers and recruiters can have a more efficient and safe vetting process of documents of potential candidates from overseas. This can significantly reduce the processing time of potential candidates and increase the workforce.
    Technology can help solve this present crisis of workforce shortage in the healthcare system and prevent unnecessary loss of life.

About the author

George Mathew is a fourth-year medical student at Medical University – Pleven. He is from the state of Kerala in India and is currently living in Pleven, Bulgaria to study medicine.
He is part of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP) in Pleven and is passionate about issues like modern war crimes, the influence of corporations in governmental policy making, climate change and migration & refugee flows. He is also the current Ambassador to Pleven (Bulgaria) for The European Student Think Tank.

Comments

  1. Technology is essential to bridging that workforce gap in healthcare. Without the right systems in place, it’ll become that much more difficult for professionals in this industry to provide the utmost care to those in need.

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