It is a sad reality that many patients must either wait too long or travel too far just to get connected with a healthcare provider. In developing nations, some patients don’t even get the appropriate care for diseases that could be deemed preventable or treatable under the right circumstances. This storyline is becoming even more common partly because more people are getting older and chronic diseases are occurring more frequently for younger people. The number of people in need of healthcare services is steadily climbing. According to a study published by the Society of General Internal Medicine, complex health conditions are now more prevalent for a large segment of the US population. More than just the increase in public health issues, the gap between patient and health care providers is widening due to more alarming systematic problems.
In 2016, Human Resources for Health predicted that the global demand for healthcare workers will be 80 million, but the supply will only amount to 65 million. The basic threshold for the ratio between skilled healthcare professionals and patients is twenty-three to ten thousand, but many countries still fail to meet this standard. Large-scale strategies need to be implemented in order to close this gap. The World Health Organization recommended a set of actions to be taken in order to address the shortage in healthcare workers. This includes the following:
- Increasing technical and political leadership to support human resource development,
- Collecting reliable data for health databases,
- Making frontline health services more accessible and acceptable from community and mid-level healthcare professionals,
- Balancing the distribution of healthcare workers and improving retention, and
- Giving healthcare workers a voice in the development of universal health coverage policies.
Although these suggestions do target key systematic issues that greatly contribute to the shortage, public health educational systems could also use some much-needed innovation. It is essential for prospect health care workers to understand the state of the industry as it is and what it is expected to become in the future. Online programs, for example, are being more widely used as a channel to educate healthcare professionals.
At this point, the overwhelming evidence may seem to tell us that the solution to addressing the growing needs of the global population for healthcare services is to generate more highly skilled professionals. This, however, isn’t the only course of action that is available. Many systems are inefficient in the sense that they rely too much on doctors, rather than maximizing the use of mid-level practitioners. According to Mike Miesen, a former director of Evolvent Health in Washington D.C., there is evidence that supports that physician assistants and nurse practitioners are just as effective as physicians in primary care settings which can include health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and etc. Additionally, the use of existing technologies that lessen the burden of physician visits must be maximized and further developed.
The growing older-population, the increasing rate of medical employee turnover, and the prevalence of chronic diseases in younger patients are all reasons that cement the existence of the growing demand for skilled practitioners. Despite this harsh reality, there is a clear path towards progress. The health care community must collectively move towards actively tackling the larger systematic problems while also making sure that the institutions that they are involved in are as efficient as they can be with how they utilize their workforce.
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