Healthcare systems around the world are dealing with depleting resources at a time when demand for healthcare is rapidly rising. Governments face growing pressure to reduce costs without impacting quality or access to care. At the same time, the World Economic Forum and OECD predict BRICS will see a 117% increase in health spending over the next decade, while U.S. health expenditures are projected to increase by $3.5 trillion between 2010 and 2040. Governments are responding with healthcare reforms and recognising the need for greater collaboration with the private sector.
While funding challenges exert significant pressure on healthcare systems, the shortage of human resources presents a more alarming trend. There is already a want for skilled doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers. The approaching wave of retirements of healthcare professionals looms large at a time when demand for services is rising. Current systems will be unable to keep up with the swelling health needs of the population. According to the World Health Organization, by 2035, we face a projected shortage of 12.9 million healthcare professionals globally.
Regional human resource depletion, or ‘brain drain’, is also an issue for many developing countries. With healthcare workers high in demand, developing countries are losing skilled, educated professionals and caregivers to more lucrative markets.
Health systems are optimising human resources and adopting process-driven advances, standardised procedures and technological innovations to cut costs and improve quality.
Governments are looking for low-cost, efficient solutions to reform healthcare and address their depleting resource issues. They are adopting process-driven advances and standardised procedures, and optimising human resources with an eye to continual quality improvement and cost cutting. New business models are emerging that have governments collaborating with the private sector to address the situation with transparency and favourable outcomes. Public-private partnerships offer the benefits of long-term cost savings and the achievement of clear quality benchmarks.
Technology has become a driver of change and a potential solution to healthcare’s resource problems. The private sector is an appealing health partner because of its ability to bring innovation and improved efficiency. With advanced analytic tools for more precise patient diagnosis and disease detection, health systems can achieve greater value in clinical services, more patient adherence and better outcomes. But for technology to be effective at offsetting the human resource shortage, it has to be easy for busy professionals to use and produce reliable results.
Technological advances are also changing the way consumers access and receive care. Inpatient care is moving to outpatient service. Mobile devices and apps are enabling greater patient engagement in their own care. Patients can monitor their health at home with devices that send reports wirelessly to their physician. Remote monitoring, telemedicine and mobile devices will help reduce the burden on health systems as care shifts away from professional settings. Improved analytics will also provide healthcare professionals with greater insight. With knowledge of patient flow and care delivery pathways, health professionals can provide the most appropriate individualised care more efficiently.
Governments are also implementing new efficiency-based reimbursement models to reduce the growing burden of healthcare costs without compromising care. Instead of rewarding volume, they are exploring ways to incorporate comparative effectiveness, pay for performance and equitable models of reimbursement. Providers are thus rewarded for better outcomes, better quality, cost savings and value.
Creative solutions and strong, mutually beneficial collaborations will go far to address dwindling resources, demanding consumers and increasing health needs. Public and private sector partnership will accelerate healthcare providers’ ability to show value and clear outcomes to the consumer. But investing in talent must also be a priority. Training new healthcare professionals is required to deal with the human resources shortage and deliver the promise of better value, greater access and improved outcomes.