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.