The World faces a Healthcare Provision Crisis

Today’s installment? Why you need to ask the right questions. Healthcare in the future, a link to website with numbers on HCP shortages in Europe in the future. And what are your plans to engage with HCPs as their number dwindles? 

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

Women threaten the health of the Swiss health system: 

In a recent article in a respected Swiss newspaper, the NZZ, I read this:  A shortage of physicians could threaten Switzerland, which is why the discussion about admission to medical training is coming to a head. An FDP politician locates the problem in the “feminization” of the profession. The problem: women get pregnant. Then they have kids. Then they want to work part-time.  The politician’s solution: a quota for male students. In Germany politicians are also discussing this solution. And in Pakistan….

When I worked as a physician, a male department head, said to me “the job is changing, it’s long hours, more paperwork. Less time to talk to patients. Less salary. Less freedom. Less status. It’s no longer an attractive job. In the long term, men will look for more lucrative jobs, and women will be doctors”. It looks like he was right. He recommended I leave.

Before I did, I went to the head of the hospital. I shared with him how hiring more people would:  improve patient care, staff mental health, reduce working time, increase efficiency and ultimately save overall costs to the healthcare system by increasing efficiencies. He said “you are right, but it is politically difficult to implement”

The fact is that the system has been hemorrhaging doctors for years now: cardiologists, nephrologists, oncologists, thoracic surgeons, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists. I have friends, who work in IT. One heads up a building company. One is commercial director at a big pharma company. There are doctors all over the place. But they are not working with patients. 

I think the issue is not the female doctors. I suspect the issue is, that the job is just not that attractive anymore. To find that out, one would need to ask: How many doctors are trained?  How many stay in the job? At what time-point in their careers does the system face the highest risk to lose them?  What attracts them away from the profession?  What do coming generations of doctors, both men and women, want from their career?

My hypothesis: putting in place a quota to increase the numbers of male medical students is not going to solve the problem. Absent solid analysis of an issue, the proposed solution, will not address the root cause. 

Healthcare in the future:

Patients are getting older. HCP numbers are diminishing., The patient to HCP ratio is increasing. In addition, in rural settings, all over the world, there are too few practitioners. Access to healthcare is limited. In some markets, such as China, the population is 1.41 billion and there are 3.7 million licensed HCPs. The conclusion: digital healthcare is here to stay. Many processes will need to be automatized. But also, as resources are scarce, pharma companies will need to come up with efficient ways to serve and access their customers. The old approach sales rep, medical advisor, MSL, med info team, won’t work in these huge markets. Access to customers was considered challenging in 2006. It will become harder in the future. How do you meet customers where they are? How do you compete with other companies for their time? What services will you need to offer? A European Medical Director, himself a physician, said to me in 2010 “Now the time has come where doctors tell pharma what they want from us, it is no longer the other way round”. I found this statement interesting. The question for pharmaceutical companies in 2021 is: what resourcing model, what combination of assets digital and human will ensure best delivery of service and information to all customer groups? How can you provide the right mix of information to ensure that  the right medication is provided to the right patient at the right time?

Looking at the numbers, the second question is, I think, how do we stratify customers, so that we can serve their needs in a tailored way with the resources available in the companies? Perhaps, another question is, looking at the resourcing, can pharma companies collaborate to serve some of the market’s needs?

Here is a link to a website with numbers on HCP shortages in Europe in the future. Take a look and check the graphic on where doctors go to.

Many more questions than answers. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 
My focus remains supporting cross-functional transformation in pharma working across departments to increase efficiency, value and innovation. If you want to discuss a project you are working on feel free to reach out for an informal chat.