How to solve healthcare’s workforce shortage

The pandemic compounded longer-term issues, leading to crisis-level staffing shortfalls in many health systems. Here’s how the industry can respond.

The Leadership Agenda

Explore now

Most industries face labour shortages these days, but in the healthcare industry, the issue is approaching crisis levels. In PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey, 67% of healthcare CEOs said that labour and skills shortages would have a big impact on profitability over the next 10 years—higher than the overall global average of 52%. Addressing the challenge will require a mix of human-capital and technology solutions.

Labour issues were growing in healthcare even before covid-19, but the pandemic made a challenging situation worse. Today, hospitals and health systems in many markets face a near-critical shortage of doctors, nurses and other professionals. Some hospitals can fill gaps with contract talent such as travelling nurses, but that’s a short-term solution (at best). Those workers are more expensive, which has financial implications for hospitals, and those pay disparities—where newcomers on short-term contracts make more than the full-time employees with years of tenure—can erode morale. Meanwhile, growing backlogs mean that patients face longer waits for care.

The solution is a blend of human-capital and technology measures: 

  • Redefine how and where patients receive care. First, organisations need to develop care models that are more flexible. For example, improving and expanding virtual care, which soared during the pandemic, can enable patients to receive treatment at home or in clinicians’ offices, rather than in more formal settings like hospitals.
  • Invest in technology to enhance productivity. Technology in healthcare has traditionally been used more for patient care than managing talent. But leading organisations are now investing in digital tools—and sometimes partnering with third parties—to track workflows, peak hours of patient volume, bed management and other factors, and then using analytics to improve productivity and patient volumes. These solutions essentially equip organisations to do more with the same staff.
  • Improve the employee value proposition. Longer term, hospitals and health systems need to attract more people into the industry. That means rethinking the work environment—for example, minimising the administrative burden on staff and offering recognition for clinicians that provide exceptional care—and improving how management recruits, retains and promotes talent. And, of course, pay needs to be a part of the retention strategy. 

Labour shortfalls in the industry are acute, but with the right approach, hospitals and health systems can take a big step toward solving them.

Explore the findings of PwC's 27th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Read more


Contact us

Ron Chopoorian

Ron Chopoorian

US Deals Leader, Partner, PwC US

Follow us