Digital health not yet up to global workforce challenge

The world is facing a global healthcare workforce crisis. Technology is often cited as the universal panacea to this shortfall – but digital health companies are a long way away from being able to provide a solution – even if legislation allowed them to and the public was ready to fully embrace it.

In France, 16,000 doctors are being retired each year and only half are replaced. This is one of the reasons Teladoc cites for its recent telehealth acquisition in France. Germany will also have a shortfall of 300,000 nurses by 2030, Japan will need an extra 250,000 nurses by 2025 and nurses form 9.2% of the NHS’ vacancies, as KPMG’s Mark Britnell discusses in an interview this week.

Though the timescale is uncertain, digital health, telehealth, AI, and teleradiology will have a significant part to play in eating into this shortfall. Extensive use of remote consultations, wearables, robots – and products currently beyond our imagination –  could mean that 90% of care is delivered virtually within 10 years according to HBI sources.

So it is a question of when, not how. and currently, very few companies across the continent have the leverage to deliver anything near this scale. Much of the innovation remains in localised start-ups, almost none have reached pan-European status, and few are even making a profit yet out of the thousands of digital health start-ups across the continent.

A few big players are begining to catch the eye: As subscribers can read elsewhere, Teladoc plans to almost create a verticalised healthcare structure by delivering primary care, complex care, behavioural therapy and mental health virtually from one platform. Elsewhere, Doctolib has this week exceeded €1bn value.

Will the crisis be averted? It’s going to take a lot of investment, consolidation, time, an legislative cooperation before digital health companies that truly deliver enough care to help manage the global workforce crisis emerge, and technology is only part of the solution. The workforce crisis is putting health services on the critical list. We remain optimistic, however, and suspect that, necessity being the mother of invention, suitable solutions will be adopted before this becomes terminal.

 

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Rachel Lewis or call 0207 183 3779.