Mapúa University School of Health Sciences in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU) recently gathered healthcare professionals, policy makers, and industry experts to discuss existing challenges surrounding the local healthcare landscape. In a panel discussion entitled “Bridging the Healthcare Gap: Concrete Solutions to Address the Workforce Crisis”, taking an integrated approach to bolstering education emerged as a vital measure to address disparities in healthcare delivery, and to raise the standard of competitiveness among Filipino healthcare professionals.
The role of technology in health education
To begin the discussion, former Department of Health Secretary (DOH) and former Dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health Dr. Manuel M. Dayrit elaborated on the scale of challenges facing the equitable distribution of healthcare. “There is a human health resources crisis nationally, locally, and of course, globally. A World Health report talked about the crisis in terms of three big areas: the production of health workers, the retention of health workers, and the exit of health workers.”
The local healthcare landscape is besieged by the uneven distribution of healthcare professionals and services, as well as a mismatch of skills with the needs of the workforce. The prospect of working abroad has also become a serious consideration for many present and future Filipino healthcare workers in search of career development. With the vital role of the workforce in healthcare delivery, workers must have the competencies and skills needed to keep with developments within the profession.
Francisco Gutierrez MD, MBA, MHS, Global Managing Director for Medicine & Health at Cintana Education shared the value of leveraging technology in professional healthcare education and training. “Many studies for more than a decade have been telling us that the way we’ve been training health professionals is not addressing the needs of the population. To help address the crisis, we need to innovate with educational technology. We do it by bringing best practices from all over the world, introducing new ideas and changing the way things have been done traditionally.”
The value of primary health care
In terms of local healthcare education, a significant impediment to training more healthcare workers is the availability of local clinical training experiences in hospitals, clinics, and community settings. One solution proposed by West Visayas State University President Joselito Villaruz, M.D., Ph.D. was to expand opportunities for experiential learning across the country alongside revisions to the Medical Act of 1959 and the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law, which has the potential to impact how medical educational policies will be developed moving forward.
Former De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute Dean Dr. Madeline Sosa, a solution to the workforce crisis can be found in creating a holistic framework for recruitment that begins in the high school level. By utilizing integrated schools and state universities to help form future generations of medical professionals, this measure can help ensure healthcare workers are ready, familiar, and able to immediate address the needs of the respective communities they belong to.
Both speakers also agreed on primary health care as a foundation for health education. Defined as the process and practice of immediate health services, primary health care helps develop more positive health outcomes by emphasizing health promotion and sickness prevention rather than focusing on cure alone.
Local regulation to meet global healthcare standards
Eleanor Almoro, M.D. of the Professional Regulatory Board of Medicine mentioned that the performance of the healthcare workforce is directly linked to the quality of healthcare services delivered. Regulation is essential to define a clear framework by which healthcare professionals acquire and maintain the competencies needed to provide high-quality, safe, and patient-centric healthcare services.
In terms of competencies, Shirly Joy Pador, MD, Chief of the Learning and Development Division of the DOH Human Resources Development Bureau, shared that a survey conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment revealed that the local healthcare workforce needs soft skills development. Defined as traits and interpersonal skills that characterize relationships with other people, soft skills such as communication, time management, and teamwork complement technical medical knowledge and help increase patient satisfaction and ensure cultural competence.
Innovation through collaboration
Successfully navigating the challenges of the local healthcare landscape will require a seamless integration of the solutions presented during the discussion. Much of the work will require strong leadership, a willingness to innovate, and cooperation between the academe, the government, the private sector, and even non-profit organizations.
Dr. Malaya Santos, Dean of Mapúa’s School of Health Sciences, said, “Certainly, the local healthcare landscape presents unique complexities, but they can be overcome with strategic and sustained collaboration. As an educational institution committed to fostering social growth through innovation, digital transformation, and lifelong education, Mapúa University School of Health Sciences is ready to work with various stakeholders in taking on this challenge. For our health sciences students, our collaboration with Arizona State University, #1 in the US for innovation, empowers learners with global education to answer the needs of our local healthcare system and remain competitive around the world.”