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Six Ways the World is Closer to Closing the Healthcare Skills Gap

As economies and technology have rapidly evolved, so has the need to ensure people have the skills for a modern workforce and world. It’s a challenge that is likely to span many of the discussions in Davos, Switzerland this week, as the world’s leaders convene on the World Economic Forum (WEF).

It’s also a challenge that is particularly felt in the health and science fields, where access to highly trained skills can be a matter of life. With 5.8 billion people with limited or no access to affordable healthcare in the world, the need to solve it is ever more pressing.

Yet already a number of recent efforts are taking it on with a range of solutions geared to the communities in which they operate. Here are six ways – and reasons to believe – the skills gap in healthcare is closer to being closed.

#1. In India for IndiaYoung girl in India swaps marriage for medicine, poverty for paying for her sisters’ educationAvailability of skilled resources is one of the biggest impediments to growth, especially in remote areas of the country. It is estimated that India requires nearly 6.5 million health professionals, but currently has less than 300,000. According to India’s National Skill Development Corporation, by 2018 the healthcare technician demand-supply gap in India will be 445,000, an 84% shortfall.

In October 2016, Tata Trusts and GE Healthcare announced a partnership to train 10,000 youth  over a three-year period. Trainees will take courses designed and developed specifically for this purpose through a mix of both classroom training and interactive training exercises for the opportunity to graduate as X-ray, radiography, medical equipment, anesthesia, operation theatre and cardiac care technicians, as well as diabetic education counsellors. The candidates will also undergo continuous assessment and internships during the course of this program. In addition, the program has set a goal to ensure 50% of those candidates are female.

“The future of healthcare in this country is not just the doctors and the researchers. It’s dependent on students,” said Bharat Chaudhari, Senior Associate, Training and Development, at the GE Healthcare Institute in Mumbai, India, one of ten sites across the country.

#2. Loans for aspiring Kenyan health workers

Trevor Snapp for IntraHealth International

Trevor Snapp for IntraHealth International

The shortage of health workers in Africa is expected to reach 6 million by 2030, according to recent work that IntraHealth, a global health organization, conducted with the World Health Organization.

In Africa, where the population is one of the fastest growing in the world and the high school graduation rates are among the worst, governments will be especially hard-pressed to overcome this challenge. They will require even more unique solutions.

One solution has come in the form of a loan reprogram, launched by IntraHealth and partners, to enable more health students to enter school, in coordination with the government to help ensure that loans will be repaid, and ultimately be ready to enter the workforce.

“One solution,” wrote Kate Tulenko, VP, Health Systems Innovation at IntraHealth International, “is to find the intersection of public and private health systems, leveraging the existing infrastructure, technology, workforce, and experience that comes from such deeply rooted organizations with local presence.”

In Kenya, GE Healthcare committed to training 10,000 health professionals, including biomedical technicians, laboratory technicians, x-ray technicians, and other health workers.

#3.The gift of (ultra)soundGhana1 Between 1990 and 2005, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by about 44%.1 But in Ghana, insufficient progress has been made, according to the WHO.

 In Kumasi, one of Ghana’s largest metropolitan areas, a group of volunteers are working to change that. The ISUOG’s Ghana Outreach Project, in partnership with Women’s Health to Wealth and GE Healthcare, delivers training in ultrasound for obstetrics and gynecology at Suntreso, Old Tafo, and South Kumasi hospitals. To support their efforts, three Voluson ultrasound machines were donated to the program, helping to train local healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors and radiographers to use the systems.

“I want to help mothers safely deliver their children,” said sonographer Abekah Adams, one of the trainees. “I know that my mother suffered a lot when she delivered, so I always had it in my mind that, when I grew up, I would help mothers deliver and return home safely.”

Trainees have each been assigned a mentor to engage in weekly chats via WhatsApp to discuss images they have scanned and receive support on their scanning capabilities.

#4. One woman, one change, can make all the difference

20160528_124200At the hospital in Zimbabwe where Clara Methie works as a midwife, sterile gloves, abundant in hospitals in developed nations, were scarce or even unavailable to her and the students in the labor and delivery ward. Clara and a handful of her colleagues decided to lobby administrators to make sterile delivery packs which included clean instruments and linens.

Unduly exposing women to infection during labor and delivery contributes to the approximately 830 women who die from preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth every day; 99% of the 287,000 women who die in childbirth each year live in developing countries like Zimbabwe where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world.

That’s why it’s so important that Clara and her colleagues succeeded.

“In developing nations, midwives are rarely heard or given leadership roles,” Clara said.  “We know what we need to improve our working environment and provide the best standard of care for women during pregnancy and delivery. If we are given a seat at the table to discuss such topics as policy-making and revenue allocation, we would allocate revenue accordingly and make decisions focused on women. We need to work together to make this happen.”

To help make that happen on a broader scale, GE Healthcare, UNFPA, and the United Nations Population Fund are launching an online midwifery training and networking platform to connect more than 700 midwives from 30 countries worldwide. Clara is part of this initiative intended to be a mentoring destination – a place where young up-and-coming midwives get exposure to leaders who share information on the latest healthcare solutions and prepare them to play a greater role in policy dialogues and advocate on behalf of midwives and the women and children they serve within their countries.

#5. A Connected World is Healthy World

Main_Day1_Healthcare_MOV8_Patient_v06Digital health is already dominating headlines in the developed world, but cloud and code innovations, even if not created in the emerging markets, are already proving their potential to help.

In November, UCSF’s Center for Digital Health Innovation (CDHI) and GE Healthcare announced that they are developing a deep learning library of algorithms that aims to expedite and aid differential diagnosis and improve clinical workflows, shortening time to treatment and improving patient outcomes. In the simplest terms, once unleashed, this ‘code in the cloud’ will be focused on reviewing images in a radiologists queue, analyzing them using an ever-growing library of similar images for which a diagnosis is known, and pushing to the front of the queue the images that it recognizes as requiring urgent action.

But says Charles Koontz, Chief Digital Officer of GE Healthcare, what’s really so powerful about combining analytics, deep learning and cloud technology is how it grows more scalable over time. “While this partnership begins here in Silicon Valley,” he said “it’s the global users of the algorithms who will disrupt the way care is delivered.”

The algorithms will further be used to ensure providers around the world can access new knowledge and insights delivered through deep learning – a method by which machines can rapidly generate new levels of clinical and operational value from large imaging and textual data sets in ways that traditional machine learning methods cannot.

#6.Building a future for Middle East’s biomedical engineers

GE8

Medical technologies lifecycle support is one of the major challenges facing healthcare institutions around the globe and particularly in the Middle East

GE healthcare education solution’s strategy in the Eastern Growth Markets (EGM) is tailored to client needs and priorities in order to address the gap in skillsets. The Healthcare Skills Training Institute (HSTI) in Saudi Arabia part of education solutions EGM region has successfully led the development and execution of the biomedical engineering training program in cooperation with GE healthcare Institute in Waukesha, Medisend International in Dallas and local partners to provide senior year university  biomed students and clients in the biomedical engineers space with intensive biomedical training. 

The programs included training modules delivered locally in addition to the training abroad for a duration varying between 1-6 months for 35 biomedical engineers from the public health sector and academia in Saudi Arabia. More will follow in 2017.

The programs included several modules such as leadership for biomed, health technology management, medical terminology, healthcare policies, study the design of medical instruments in state-of–the-art electronics and medical equipment laboratories, explore and learn the fundamentals of select biomedical technologies such as MRI, CT, patient monitoring, life support and ultrasound imaging equipment in addition to internship at USA hospitals to learn best practices.

The Healthcare Skills Training Institute is in partnership with King Fahad Medical City,  located in the heart of the medical city campus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

 The expectation is that following the program, the students will be empowered to help improve healthcare system and the quality of life in their communities.