Despite the growing use of technology, healthcare is at its core, a people-driven business. Starting with the patients at the centre to the doctors and nurses who provide care, to the administrators and operators who help these complex organisations function — the growing demand for care outpaces the supply of labour. This is putting pressure on healthcare systems globally.

COVID-19 exacerbated this challenge by burning out already strained workforces causing staff to plea to their organisations and oversight bodies for support, to take unplanned leave to recuperate, or at worst – leave their profession entirely.

In the KPMG global organisation, my role is to help to create approaches aimed at addressing the worldwide shortage1 of healthcare workers and to help KPMG firms’ clients — large and small, public and private, systems and organisations — to understand, plan and transform their healthcare workforces. Over the years, KPMG professionals have done some amazing work in this field, helping clients to:

  • Improve organisational support and wellbeing offers to staff,
  • Develop cohesive workforce plans,
  • Reimagine the way care is provided and introduce new roles,
  • Anticipate the impact of technology on the health and care workforce and change undergraduate and postgraduate training to reflect this, equipping staff with digital skills to thrive in the future,
  • Forecast future requirements for staff based on service demand and new care models; and
  • Transform the employee experience of joining, moving or leaving a health employer.

I have seen the demand for support, innovation, global insight and new approaches increase significantly. This seems to reverberate across the globe. Through KPMG’s 2021 Healthcare CEO Future Pulse, 200 healthcare leaders from eight jurisdictions were surveyed and nearly all (97 percent) agreed that the pandemic “significantly accelerated” their transformation efforts. On their change trajectory, workforce topped the list of approaches that were being fundamentally revised due to COVID-19. This survey also examined the most concerning workforce issues keeping healthcare CEOs up at night. The ability to meet demand took first place followed by the impact of new operating models upon staff (which would include the impact of technology), with supporting workforce wellness coming in at third place.

In this third issue of Healthcare Foresight, in the articles below we explore these issues and more that are affecting future healthcare workforces and learn about organisations leading change, including:

  • Shining a spotlight on the issue of healthcare worker burnout and the work the Canadian Medical Association is doing to create a new culture focused on three dimensions of wellness: physical, psychosocial, and cultural.
  • Examining how technology can help healthcare organisations to better understand and plan for future workforce needs, highlighting examples from Australia.
  • Viewing different perspectives through a global prism by asking KPMG professionals about the most pressing workforce issues in their jurisdictions and examples of how local organisations are taking action to address them.

I hope you enjoy learning from these articles as much as I have. From my work in recent years, it is clear that no health and care system has a cohesive plan to tackle the wicked workforce issues they are facing. However, by learning from global best practices the sector can accelerate progress towards one and create the capacity to care which is critical to health, wealth, wellbeing, service quality, resilience and prosperity.

Michael Allen
Healthcare Foresight guest editor

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