- COVID-19 has contributed to the global shortage of health workers and put them at the frontlines for the pandemic.
- World Health Day 2022 is an occasion when WHO highlights urgent actions that are needed to keep the planet and people healthy.
- Six executives from the health care industry share their thoughts on the most pressing challenges facing health care systems right now, and possible solutions.
The global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has been centered on health care providers. Frontline workers are the ones who have put their health and safety at risk in order to provide safe and effective care for patients. Although hospitals initially struggled with inadequate protective equipment and lack of information, attention has shifted to staff shortages as well as mental health issues.
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The global shortage of health care workers was a problem even before the pandemic. The World Health Organisation forecasted that the shortage would more than double, from 7 million in 2016 and 18 million by 2030. The problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Additionally, key studies revealed that many health care workers face significant mental health problems. The WHO will be paying global attention to urgent actions required to protect the planet and humans on World Health Day 20022. These actions will encourage a movement for wellbeing-oriented societies.
Six health care executives were asked to share their greatest challenges and the solutions they envision.
“The people working in health care are the reason why we can be optimistic about our future.”
Dr Rod Hochman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Providence.
The pandemic is exacerbated by the fact that there are many forces that are driving the transformation of health care and other sectors of society. These forces should be taken into consideration as we address the grave shortage of health care workers and create robust support systems to aid caregivers.
As we enter the third year after a devastating global health crisis, the health system has been adapting rapidly to meet patient needs and provide care for caregivers. Telemonitoring is being used to help patients heal at home, as well as keeping caregivers safe. We also have other telehealth model. Collaborations are creating, integrating AI digital solutions to support providers along with vital research to identify potential new treatment pathways for COVID-19.
Many of us have declared 2022 “the year of the caregiver” after the stress and burnout that frontline health care workers experienced over the past two years. We are investing in the purpose of healing and rebuilding our workforce. We offer support services for caregivers as well as a variety of supportive services. Our human resource strategies include recognizing, referral, and recruitment bonuses, fair, equitable and predictable pay, scheduling and scheduling, tuition reimbursement, and encouraging and developing our employees. We are resourcing in new ways and I believe that nonprofit health care has deep meaning and attracts and retains clinicians and other workers.
While technology will make us more efficient, health care is still about human connection. I am inspired by the people working in this sector to believe in its future.
“We must prepare a skilled digital healthcare workforce to support a new standard.”
The Executive Vice-Chairman of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited is Shobana Kamineni.
“The coronavirus epidemic raised many serious questions in the health care sector. The pandemic exacerbated these problems exponentially. Two of these were particularly challenging:
- A global shortage of 18 million workers is predicted for 2030.
- There is a growing demand for digital skills, which makes it urgent to upgrade and reskill. There is currently a large demand for people with the skillsets needed to adopt digital health care platforms. Telehealth is a strong solution to both of these challenges. Telehealth tools have been a great way to bridge the gap between demand and supply. They can be used to treat COVID-19 as well as other non-Communicable disease (NCDs). The number of Teleconsultations at Apollo Hospitals’ new age Omnichannel Platform 24/7 has increased 4.5 times from 0.3 to 1.3 Million each year.
The pandemic has opened up opportunities to accelerate the delivery of technology-driven healthcare. Machine learning (ML) as well as artificial intelligence (AI), are changing the landscape in health care. We need to retrain the skills needed for delivering healthcare on new and different platforms due to increased demand for telehealth, remote diagnostics and home health care. This allows systems to better manage treatment even if they have a limited workforce.
We need a strong ecosystem of skills based technologies like AI, ML and satellite-based landscape epilogy to implement public health measures that leverage data and predictive analytics for disease control, surveillance, immunisation and vector control. All stakeholders, including governments and the private sector, must take integrated ground action to create a global rapid-action health care workforce capable of playing a key role in fighting future pandemics. This is especially important for regions that are less resilient.
“Listen and Learn: Two simple ways to reduce caregiver burnout
Dr Marc Harrison is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Intermountain Healthcare.
“It’s no secret. The pandemic of the past two years has left caregivers all over the globe exhausted. How can we stop it? Learn from them, listen and be humble, learn from them, find ways that you can support them, invest into them, and have some fun again. Finally, create a better care model that reminds people why this profession was chosen.
Let’s get started. We have implemented more than 50,000 caregiver ideas as part of our continuous improvement process. These ideas make us stronger and more efficient as an organisation. Because of caregiver feedback, we have made changes to or added new benefits to our benefits. This includes increasing fertility coverage and chiropractic care. At the height Omicron surge, Utah caregivers told us that they would work harder and cover more shifts than travel nurse staff. We created competitive incentive structures to achieve that goal. They also expressed their desire to have opportunities to invest in themselves and their careers. We listened. We listened. The program has been used by more than 10,000 caregivers.
It’s important to be humble as a leader and accept a failure. When I was first appointed president and CEO at Intermountain Healthcare, I made a decision to ban non-diet sodas. Although it may seem like a minor decision, it was a crucial one. It was not popular and both patients and caregivers demanded that soda be brought back to our facilities. I listened. And then I reversed my course. I also shared my reasons with them with honesty and transparency as a leader.
These are just a few of the many ways that we can engage our team – some trivial, others more important operationally. They all share one thing in common. Leaders must be open to the ideas and needs of caregivers.
“Elevate caregiving and fully integrate homecare into the health care system”
Jeff Huber, Chief Executive Officer, Home Instead; President, Honor Technology, Inc.
“To improve the quality of aging around the globe, we must raise the standards of caregiving. While the vast majority of older adults would prefer to age at their homes, many are not able to do so. The shortage of skilled, qualified care professionals capable of providing the quality care that older adults require is a key reason for the lack of choice.
How large is the gap in caregiving? Germany already has a shortage of 120,000 caregivers. To meet the demand, Singapore will need to increase its care professionals workforce by 130 per cent over the next decade. As the world’s population ages, the challenges will only get more pressing. The number of people 65 years and older will more then double, from 700 million people today to 1.5 billion in 2050.
As we age, many of us need assistance with daily living tasks such as dressing and bathing, shopping for groceries and cooking meals. Many people will need assistance with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, and other serious diseases like Alzheimer’s. These diseases are expected to affect 82 million people in 2030, and 152 million in 2050. They provide assistance with wellness, disease prevention, management, and daily activities. Social isolation is also reduced, which is crucial for a happy, empowered aging experience.
It is not possible to solve the growing shortage of home-care professionals by just recruiting more people. It takes a shift in mindset to make home care a fulfilling career and to increase public awareness of the benefits it provides. Home Instead, a global leader in homecare for seniors, and the Global Coalition on Aging have released ” Building The Caregiving Workforce Our Aging Planet Needs” to help accelerate this process.
It is essential to build a strong, vibrant workforce of professional caregivers to help older adults avoid health risks and meet the growing needs of our rapidly ageing global society. This workforce will be able to meet the needs of older adults to age at home, provide security for family members and friends, and ensure that there is a continuous flow of care for all individuals.
“A holistic and equitable approach to healthcare”
Robert C. Garrett, Chief Executive Officer, Hackensack Meridian Health.
There is no doubt that two years of fighting COVID-19 brought about many fault lines in American health care. These included inadequate primary care, a lack of prevention and maintenance health, unequal access to care, and limited options for treatment for addiction and mental health. These issues are critical to the health of our communities and must be addressed by health care providers.
The COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted the importance of improving access to affordable, high-quality health care. Without significant investments in social determinants, there is no way to improve health care. Healthcare must shift from episodic, acute care to a more holistic, equitable and sustainable approach to health care and better management. Americans suffering from diabetes, obesity, or other costly chronic illnesses were particularly affected by the pandemic. It affected communities of color more severely than those in white communities.
We have learned from the COVID-19 crisis that providing community-based behavioral health care is a top priority. We must provide greater access and better coordination of care as well as innovative treatment. According to the Kaiser Foundation, 3 out of 10 Americans have reported symptoms that are consistent with anxiety disorder or depression since April 2020. In the past two years, our health system has seen a 90 percent increase in demand for pediatric behavioral healthcare visits.
Before the pandemic, there was no doubt that the nation’s behavioral health care system is in crisis. According to the CDC, more than 47,000 Americans lost their lives in 2019, a record national number. The suicide rate increased by 33 percent between 1999 and 2019. The statistics are even more shocking for children.
Let’s not forget the people at the core of our communities, our health care team, who selflessly served our patients during the worst days of the pandemic. The last two years have seen so many changes in our nation’s health care workforce. There were multiple surges and the deaths of almost one million Americans. Many people are now suffering from post-traumatic stress. They too have been personally affected by COVID-19 and it has made the workforce thin.
It is not surprising that nearly one in five U.S. healthcare workers has left their job since the outbreak of the pandemic. We must invest in our employees, foster a positive culture to prevent burnout, and ensure the well-being of our providers. Because we can’t improve health care without the skilled workforce that delivers compassionate care every day.
We must acknowledge the moral damage to our culture, and our workforce in order to recover from the pandemic. The pandemic caused two years of “moral injury” for health professionals. Working on the frontlines of COVID-19 has caused the trauma of not being able to prevent unnecessary deaths and extraordinary working conditions to make it difficult for health professionals to feel ‘broken’.
Our society also suffers from a “moral injury”. Even though medical science has made many miracles, there were still disproportionate deaths in communities of color and the less fortunate. We will be left with scarring memories of the loss of jobs and delayed learning that our children suffered, as well as the pain we feel for those who have died.
These are my lessons for rebuilding social culture
- It is important to recognize the sufferings of health professionals. Many people felt that the Omicron variant’s latest spike was a turning point. They wanted to save the lives and health professionals who had been exposed. Jefferson is a center for wellness and self-care. We offer a four-tier pyramid of emotional support that includes self-help resources, peer support, unit-based, group therapy, and professional counseling.
- This cannot be fixed by one person. To tackle the most serious moral injuries in society, we need to work together. Jefferson Health and Aramark partnered early in 2020 to create safety protocols at all workplaces. As these procedures proved to be effective, we saw the fear of environmental service workers turn into security. The World Economic Forum is a great place to continue building those partnerships.
- We need to reinvent the way we provide care and assist people as they age. As COVID-19-infected residents died, nursing homes were empty and brick-and-mortar hospital capacity was strained by patient surges. Jefferson Health is expanding its in-home healthcare services to reduce costs and improve the patient and family experience.
- In everything we do, people must be our first priority. Jefferson spent the money on personal protective equipment and staffing so loved ones could be there at the end and beginning of their lives. We fought for them in those crucial moments.
- As I repeatedly reminded our employees, it is important that we all show grace to each other and ourselves in the face of crisis.