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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 52-55

Building and Sustaining the Health-care Workforce of the Future for COVID-19 and Beyond

1 Consultant Oral Pathologist, Kozhikode, Kerala, India
2 General Medical Practitioner, Kozhikode, Kerala, India
3 Clinical Practitioner, Daman, Daman and Diu, India
4 Reader, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, School of Dental Sciences, KIMS Deemed to be University, Karad, Maharashtra, India
5 Consultant Anesthesiologist and Intensivist, Kozhikode, Kerala, India

Date of Submission13-May-2022
Date of Acceptance29-May-2022
Date of Web Publication28-Jun-2022

Correspondence Address:
Vinit Shashikant Patil
Consultant Oral Pathologist, Kozhikode, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijpcdr.ijpcdr_11_22

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The forces in play during the COVID-19 pandemic-driven slowdown and recession have affected the demand for health care, and consequently, the willingness of hospitals, health-care systems, and clinician group practices to continue employing health-care workers at prepandemic levels. The pandemic also has reduced the willingness of some health-care professionals to continue working in health care, independent of shifts in the demand of their services. To ensure that it continues to be responsive to community needs, and the workforce continues to be capable of delivering positive patient and community outcomes, the sector needs to develop early and proactive strategies to transition to effect positive cultural change. In this review of the literature, we have discussed the COVID-19 pandemic-related effects signal for the global health-care workforce in future is important to consider. Proactive planning and preparation today with an eye to tomorrow are critical; the health of the country's future generations depends on it.

Keywords: COVID-19, dental professionals, health-care workers, health-care workforce, medical professionals, public health

How to cite this article:
Patil VS, Sidhulal K, Vaghela N, Belgaumi U, Mubarak K A, Abdulla PJ. Building and Sustaining the Health-care Workforce of the Future for COVID-19 and Beyond. Int J Prev Clin Dent Res 2022;9:52-5

How to cite this URL:
Patil VS, Sidhulal K, Vaghela N, Belgaumi U, Mubarak K A, Abdulla PJ. Building and Sustaining the Health-care Workforce of the Future for COVID-19 and Beyond. Int J Prev Clin Dent Res [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 6];9:52-5. Available from: https://www.ijpcdr.org/text.asp?2022/9/2/52/348706

  Introduction Top

In recent decades, jobs in health care have appeared to have been recession-proof. During the great recession, the economic downturn from 2007 to 2009 that produced the most serious economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the health-care sector served as an important stabilizing force to the economy[1] with employment in health care continuing to grow during that time, although at a slower pace than before the economic downturn. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the use of health-care services dropped precipitously, with most health care not directly related to treating patients with COVID-19 shutdown, motivated by concern that there might be inadequate surge capability for what was perceived as an unknown future demand for COVID-19-related services. Shutting down non-COVID-19-related care also drove down the demand for health-care workers not directly involved in COVID-19 care.[2] In addition, large numbers of health-care workers decided to leave health care at least partly as a result of the stress and burnout occurring during the pandemic, seeking work in other sectors or leaving the labor market altogether.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6]

  Job Loss in Health-Care Workforce Top

In April 2020, much of the economy came to a halt, with whole sectors of the economy such as restaurants and recreational travel shutting down. Patients avoided in-person visits with their physicians, dentists, and other clinicians and health facilities for fear of contracting COVID-19, deferring large amounts of health care including some necessary care, such as cancer-related care and cardiac care. Some of the care was deferred until a later time; other care has been postponed indefinitely and may never occur. Whether the reductions or deferral of care will cause increases in disease or severity of disease will be challenging to determine but is of concern. Even in November 2021, health-care employment was still lagging, at 2.7% globally below its peak in February 2020, although employment in outpatient care centers and physician offices had almost fully recovered. Employment in other sectors of the economy also had not returned to prepandemic levels, with 2.5% lower employment overall.[3] The effect of job loss in health care has not been distributed equally by area or sex. By March 2021, men had mostly recovered from their job loss. This was not true for women, particularly those working in nursing and residential care facilities. Even among health-care workers who kept their jobs, 31% have said they have considered leaving and 19% have said they have thought about leaving the health-care field completely. Many have cited burnout and poor pay relative to working conditions as the primary reasons for considering leaving their jobs or the entire health-care field.[3],[4],[5] Even before the pandemic, significant shortages had been predicted for both physicians and nurses. Even though personnel shortages predicted by professional associations should be subjected to a healthy level of skepticism, the numbers appear substantial, even if somewhat overestimated. Researchers have predicted a shortage of more than 500,000 nurses and 139,000 physicians by 2030.

  Virtual Health Care Top

When COVID-19 struck, health-care organizations had to quickly pivot to offer safe and secure services virtually. The industry adopted fast – but now what? There is perhaps a false sense that the dust has settled. The reality is that some trends that were accelerated due to the pandemic will loom. People will continue to work from home, want virtual care options, and expect care experiences to keep pace with the latest experiences they receive from outside of health care. As health-care organizations stabilize and adjust to new ways of delivering and financing care, they are rethinking how they innovate, engage the workforce, engage external partners and deliver value closer to, and in, the home. New tools and technologies emerged – from platforms to manage the surge in virtual health, to robots to sanitize hospital rooms. Nearly overnight, companies repurposed chatbots into COVID-19 symptom checkers and turned remote monitoring devices into remote monitoring for the virus.[1] Governments and health plans quickly changed policies to enable and pay for care at a distance. Doctors and nurses began to take innovation into their own hands, using social media platforms to help people. These platforms serve as powerful launchpads for innovation. Thinking even bigger, health-care organizations might consider designing tools and platforms that create an open system for developers to use the application programming interface (APIs) as they create their own applications. Human API allows for connectivity to clinical and device data. Such companies that design open platforms drive greater cocreation and platform stickiness and they have greater opportunities to partner with others. Not every health-care organization is equipped to relentlessly pursue innovation. However, all can be open to collaboration with external developers and adopt a spirit of trying new approaches – testing and learning and being willing to fail. Organizations can also look to ecosystem partners to join forces on designing and developing innovations that improve health consumer and clinician experiences and solve health-care challenges.[6],[7],[8],[9],[10]

  Rethinking the Health-Care Workforce Employee Experience Top

The pandemic dramatically changed the nature of work and these changes are everlasting. Traditional care teams will look different as clinicians may be virtual, performing in-home visits or conducting traditional inpatient rounds, requiring technology and new processes to collaborate and coordinate effectively. From a health administrative perspective, payer and provider back-office and administrative functions will increasingly be candidates for remote work. During the pandemic, functions such as call center, HR, IT, compliance, and medical management were all pushed to remote and may stay that way. Health-care organizations must rethink everything from work hours to workspaces to new teaming opportunities. They must also consider how the health-care workforce employee experience should be reimagined. Health-care workers have choices, so leaders must evaluate what the employee value propositions should be. Payers and providers might consider flexible schedules, remote work options, and reskilling opportunities for future. Although it is too early to know what the new workplace and health-care workforce of future will look like, there are opportunities for employers to innovate in four main areas: technology, culture, talent, and control. Big tech players are collaborating with payers to offer cloud-based solutions that enable such scale. Organizations will need to develop the new ways to maintain a strong culture when teams are physically apart. In addition, the clinical workforce will continue to face burnout and even greater expectations. This should give rise to new initiatives for measuring and mitigating burnout.[6],[7],[8],[9],[10]

  Move Beyond the Last Mile to Care in The Last Few Feet Top

We have all heard the term “pressure test” to describe what the health-care industry has endured over the past year. This year's pressure test also revealed the limitations of digital and physical spaces. Health-care organizations quickly learned the speed of supply chains and the capacity of networks and platforms. These challenges shined a light on the need to be able to scale up or scale down capabilities. Health-care organizations should rethink their physical assets and refocus on what people need in the past few feet before service. Uber is providing rideshare through the Cerner Electronic health record platform to help patients get to appointments and they are also working with NimbleRX for in-home pharmacy delivery in the USA.[4] It is the time to rethink the blend of physical and digital care experiences. What belongs in the digital and what belongs in the physical realm? How do new settings such as virtual, home, retail, and community fit into care and financing business models?[9],[11],[12],[13],[14]

  Ready For Resilience Top

Now, as we rebuild and normalize, it's time for providers to think about how to adapt new approaches that satisfy health-care consumer needs as they evolve in real time. Here is how:

  • Support innovation: Innovation is a long game and health-care organizations need to commit to it. Whether it is cocreating with ecosystem partners and patients, or offering APIs for developers, organizations have the opportunity to design a platform that strengthens new care and business models
  • Create teams: Design your technology-plus-culture solution for flexible working and resilience. Organizations need to design the right tech stack that can serve patients who want to receive care on their terms, independent of location, and accommodate staff who will be working in a more remote and distributed model. Actively monitoring for burnout and ensuring front and back-office connectivity will also be key
  • Build liquid infrastructure: Think of your supply chain and physical assets as growth – not efficiency – plays. Health-care organizations need to design new workflows that blend physical and digital and find new ways to satisfy patients. From a virtual visit with a PCP to receiving a well-packaged prescription to the doorstep, organizations have new opportunities to earn patient loyalty.

  Conclusion Top

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is to be ready for anything. Rapid and diverse changes in the health-care sector are in train, with more expected in future. To ensure that it continues to be responsive to community needs, and the workforce continues to be capable of delivering positive patient and community outcomes, the sector needs to develop early and proactive strategies to transition to effect positive cultural change. Proactive planning and preparation today with an eye to tomorrow are critical; the health of the country's future generations depends on it. Is your organization ready for a resilient future? While support and appreciation are seen for all those health workers putting themselves at risk to save other people's lives and to provide care in extremely difficult circumstances across many societies, more explicit policies and practices to support health workers are needed for a sustainable health workforce through the pandemic and further into future.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

WHO. Strengthening the Health System Response to COVID-19 Recommendations for the WHO European Region Policy Brief. WHO; 2020. Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/436350/strengthening-health-system-response-COVID-19.pdf?ua=1. [Last accessed on 2022 Apr 01].  Back to cited text no. 1
Abrams EM, Szefler SJ. COVID-19 and the impact of social determinants of health. Lancet Respir Med 2020;8:659-61.  Back to cited text no. 2
Thomas S, Sagan A, Larkin J, C☺ylus J, Figueras J, Karanikolos M, et al. European Observatory on Health. Health Systems and Policy Analysis; Policy Brief 36. Strengthening Health Systems Resilience: Key Concepts and Strategies. Copenhagen: World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 3
The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The COVID-19 exit strategy-why we need to aim low. Lancet Infect Dis 2021;21:297.  Back to cited text no. 4
Rathnayake D, Clarke M, Jayasinghe VI. Health system performance and health system preparedness for the post-pandemic impact of COVID-19: A review. Int J Healthc Manag 2021;14:250-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
Burke S, Barry S, Siersbaek R, Johnston B, Ní Fhallúin M, Thomas S. Sláintecare – A ten-year plan to achieve universal healthcare in Ireland. Health Policy 2018;122:1278-82.  Back to cited text no. 6
HSE. Safe Return to Health Services. Restoring Health and Social Care Services in a COVID Environment; 2020. Available from: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/a-safe-return-to-health-services.pdf. [last accessed on 2022 feb 19].  Back to cited text no. 7
Paul R. Organising Future Healthcare in RCSI National Healthcare Outcomes Conference: Sustaining Healthcare in a COVID World; 2021. Available from: . [last accessed on 2022 feb 22].  Back to cited text no. 8
Del Rio C, Malani P. COVID-19 in 2021-continuing uncertainty. JAMA 2021;325:1389-90.  Back to cited text no. 9
Lancefield D. How to reinvent your organization in the middle of a crisis. Harv Bus Rev 2021. Available from: https://hbr.org/2021/02/how-to-reinvent-your-organization-in-the-middle-of-a-crisis. [Last accessed on 2022 Mar 19].  Back to cited text no. 10
Chiriboga D, Garay J, Buss P, Madrigal RS, Rispel LC. Health inequity during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cry for ethical global leadership. Lancet 2020;395:1690-1.  Back to cited text no. 11
Murray CJ, Piot P. The potential future of the COVID-19 pandemic: Will SARS-CoV-2 become a recurrent seasonal infection? JAMA 2021;325:1249-50.  Back to cited text no. 12
WHO Warns Covid-19 Pandemic is “Not Necessarily the Big One.” The Guardian; Published December 29, 2021. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/29/who-warns-covid-19-pandemic-is-not-necessarily-the-big-one. [Last accessed on 2021 Jan 19].  Back to cited text no. 13
Tourish D. Introduction to the special issue: Why the coronavirus crisis is also a crisis of leadership. Leadership 2020;16:261-72.  Back to cited text no. 14


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