Healthcare Worker Capacity

Increasing healthcare worker capacity through better use of technology and other process and policy innovations

The current and projected shortage of qualified healthcare workers is holding back the potential to further improve health across the globe. Across many countries, the shortage of qualified staff significantly impairs the ability to serve existing and future needs and expectations in healthcare.1  The rapid aging of the healthcare workforce is expected to compound these issues over the coming years.2  By 2030, the World Health Organization estimates a significant shortage of healthcare professionals across all qualification levels.3

Long-standing problems with sustainable working conditions for healthcare workers in many countries have been significantly aggravated by the physical and mental strain caused by fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.4  Improving the attractiveness of medical and care professions and paying more attention to mental health will be critical to maintaining a motivated and effective healthcare workforce.

Training and upkeep of a sufficiently sized and qualified healthcare workforce are a significant challenge. Today, many societies are unable to invest enough into education and continuous qualification across all care professions.5  Even in high-income countries, prioritization, organization, and funding of training programs are often not aligned with needs and do not address the need for primary healthcare workers.6

At the same time, the increasing use of data and digital health technology is transforming healthcare delivery and enhancing healthcare-workforce capabilities on a global scale. For instance, telemedicine and “internet hospitals” are providing effective access to primary and specialized care regardless of the physical distance between a doctor and patient.7  Artificial intelligence and big data analytics support workflows and decision making for healthcare professionals, such as those for medical imaging.

Digital health solutions have the power to improve patient autonomy and awareness as well as access and adherence to healthcare. These benefits are especially important for people living in areas with limited access to “offline” healthcare facilities, typical for many low- and middle-income countries and underserved areas of high-income countries.

18

million

expected global shortfall of qualified health workers by 20308

38X

increase

in telehealth usage in the US compared to pre-COVID-19 levels9

3.2

billion people globally

cannot reach any healthcare service within one hour by foot—most of which live in low- and middle-income countries10

Topics to explore

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) is interested in exploring long-term questions such as:

  • How can societies plan, build, and retain an appropriately structured healthcare workforce across professions and geographies?
  • What are the most promising combinations of human capabilities and enabling technologies for specific care settings (e.g., algorithm-supported medical decision making, hardware- and software-based enhancement of elderly engagement, participation, and care)?
  • How can organizations leverage the power of data- and technology-enabled care to improve patient experience and outcomes in line with their personalized needs?

Featured Insights

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Healthcare Providers: Preparing for the next normal after COVID-19

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Increased workforce turnover and pressures straining provider operations

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Unlocking digital healthcare in lower- and middle-income countries

– COVID-19 led many healthcare systems in lower- and middle-income countries to adapt digital-healthcare platforms.

1. Emma Schwartz, “The global healthcare worker shortage: 10 numbers to note,” Project Hope, Feb 20, 2020
2. “Doctors (by age, sex and category),” Health at a Glance 2019, OECD 2019
3. For more information, see “Health workforce,” World Health Organization, 2022
4. Gretchen Berlin, Meredith Lapointe, and Mhoire Murphy, “Increased workforce turnover and pressures straining provider operations, McKinsey, Aug 19, 2021
5. “Urgent need for investment in nursing,” World Health Organization, Apr 7, 2020
6. Joseph Lee “GPs say shortage of doctors puts safe care at risk,” BBC News, BBC Sep 11, 2021
7. Jiong Tu, Chunxiao Wang, Shaolong Wu, “The internet hospital: an emerging innovation in China,” The Lancet: Global Health, Elsevier, Aug 2015
8. For more information, see, “Health workforce,” World Health Organization, 2022
9. Oleg Bestsennyy, Greg Gilbert, Alex Harris, and Jennifer Rost, “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?,” McKinsey, Jul 9, 2021
10. D. J. Weiss, et al, “Global maps of travel time to healthcare facilities,” Nature Medicine, Springer Nature, Sep 28, 2020

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