Global Healthcare Facing Severe Workforce Shortage by 2035


  • Global healthcare is in a crisis, with a projected shortage of 18 million workers by 2035.
  • Digital health integration and AI are vital solutions to enhance patient care and address biases.
  • Connectivity and shared learning are key to bridging healthcare gaps and improving the system.

Healthcare systems worldwide face complex challenges, including an aging population, disparities in healthcare access, and a scarcity of healthcare professionals. Alarming projections from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate a severe shortfall of 18 million healthcare workers by 2035, further exacerbated by the recent pandemic.

During a recent keynote session titled “Health that Connect, Tech that Cares,” Hal Wolf, HIMSS President and CEO, advocated for a proactive approach. He suggested that integrating digital health seamlessly into healthcare facilities is a promising solution. This involves deploying advanced technologies and providing comprehensive training to the workforce.

The crucial role of AI in personalized care

Central to this strategy is the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver personalized care more efficiently. Hospitals have now harnessed predictive modeling capabilities, enabling care teams to prioritize cases and redirect time from manual patient testing to direct patient care. Wolf emphasizes recognizing AI as a valuable tool in the healthcare toolkit.

Wolf further emphasizes that a clear vision must guide any development of AI applications. It is crucial to identify and rectify biases that might inadvertently affect AI applications. Additionally, the accuracy and integrity of healthcare data, particularly in electronic medical records (EMRs) and data structures, are paramount for informed decision-making.

Robust connectivity is another critical factor to consider. This entails ensuring that care teams can access essential tools and applications anywhere. Notably, initiatives like Indonesia’s plan to introduce satellite connectivity for rural community health centers are helping bridge healthcare disparities in underserved communities.

Hal Wolf concludes by urging participants to openly share their experiences and insights gained during their digital transformation journeys. This collaborative approach, encompassing successes and challenges, is essential for continuously improving healthcare systems.

An impending global healthcare crisis

The global healthcare sector is on the brink of a severe crisis. Challenges, including a rapidly aging population, persistent healthcare disparities, and a widening workforce gap, have created a daunting scenario. The WHO’s prediction of an 18 million health worker shortage by 2035 is a stark warning for all stakeholders.

Digital health integration

To mitigate this impending crisis, experts recommend a multifaceted approach. At the forefront is the seamless integration of digital health into healthcare facilities. This transformation involves incorporating technology as an integral part of healthcare infrastructure and investing in workforce training to harness its full potential.

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is paramount. With predictive modeling capabilities, hospitals can streamline patient care by prioritizing cases efficiently. However, it is essential to view AI as a valuable tool with limitations, as Hal Wolf emphasized.

Developing AI applications requires a clear vision and a commitment to addressing biases that may inadvertently affect algorithms. Furthermore, maintaining and improving the integrity of electronic medical records (EMRs) and data structures is crucial to ensure reliable decision-making.

Efforts to bridge healthcare gaps extend to ensuring robust connectivity. Initiatives like Indonesia’s plan to introduce satellite connectivity for rural community health centers exemplify the commitment to ensuring healthcare resources are accessible, even in underserved areas.

Learning from experience

Sharing lessons learned becomes paramount as healthcare organizations embark on digital transformation journeys. Hal Wolf’s call to openly discuss both successes and challenges fosters an environment of collective growth.

The global healthcare sector faces an imminent workforce crisis that necessitates immediate action. The integration of digital health, AI-driven personalized care, bias mitigation, data integrity assurance, and robust connectivity are crucial steps to address these challenges. Collaboration, open dialogue, and shared experiences will be pivotal as healthcare systems prepare for the impending workforce shortfall worldwide.

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Written by Brenda Kanana