By Shravan Subramanyam
The Covid-19 pandemic stretched India’s healthcare system and underlined the need to upskill its allied health professionals (AHP) workforce and boost its capacities. While the government continues to push for the digital shift, the question is—how do we empower our healthcare workforce? The answer lies in—upskilling.
While the pandemic ushered in the widespread use of digital technologies, this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. India will need 200,000 skilled AHPs in the next decade for the healthcare sector to function efficiently. Now, when we speak about digital adoption, something as simple as electronic health record (EHR), mandated by the Clinical Establishments Act, has not been adopted by many hospitals. The problem can be solved by upskilling the existing staff to bridge the shortage gap. India has 145,000 labs in the country and only about 11,500 skilled manpower to service them. The healthcare industry has for long faced an acute shortage of AHPs including technicians, therapists, social health activists, and caregivers.
Why go digital to address the shortage?
A report by the WHO and Public Health Foundation of India highlights the wide variations in India’s skill mix ratio, with more than five allied personnel per allopathic doctor in Himachal Pradesh to one-tenth allied workers per doctor in Bihar. It also mentions a huge shortfall of 64 lakh AHPs in India.
Gimcare Hospital, in Kannur, Kerala showed how to bridge the digital gap. Despite being a tertiary care hospital, it faced skilled manpower issues. The facility overcame the challenges by training the staff for 6-8 months in basic IT, NABH policies, and SOPs before it opened in 2020.
Redefining the techade with upskilled workforce
Genuine skilling, upskilling of AHPs will lead to better resource management. AHPs must become familiar with all digital technologies.
Shifting the regulatory gears
In March 2021, the government brought in the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2021 which seeks to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals in the country.
The way forward
A public-private partnership and ecosystem approach can help in recruiting and upskilling AHPs. We need to create an ecosystem involving all key stakeholders to put in place a relentless cycle of upskilling of HCWs (healthcare workers) and AHPs that can eventually have a force multiplier effect on the healthcare infrastructure.
The writer is president, NATHEALTH and managing director, Wipro GE Healthcare