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Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Mark Britnell on addressing the other healthcare crisis

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Mark Britnell

The global pandemic has led to some tectonic changes in the realm of healthcare. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, recently said that the digital transformation of healthcare has led to more change in the last six months than, could have been expected over the next six years. And he’s right. 

KPMG teams have been working on more than 95 engagements globally, focusing on everything from regional test capacity to PPE supply chains to creating patient engagement apps. As a result of this work, I have identified 10 key characteristics of the new world of healthcare that is unfolding around us.

The first characteristic is perhaps the most significant: The new ‘digital front door’. At the high point of the first wave last March and April, 80 to 85 per cent of medical consultations in developed nations were taking place either virtually or telephonically. In January of 2020, the average percentage for these countries was less than two per cent. So, we have witnessed an enormously accelerated digital revolution.

By 2030, there will be a global shortfall of 18 million healthcare workers. Put simply, there is too much work to be done and far too few workers. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 18 million healthcare workers, which represents 20 per cent of the total capacity of care — a shortage of one in five required workers. 

I do believe we can close this shortfall through a combination of factors, which I discuss in detail in my book. These include embracing digital technology and artificial intelligence; encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own health; and encouraging governments to be more entrepreneurial, including enacting more progressive immigration legislation.

Some of the solutions are quite simple, like extending the retirement age for workers. The Netherlands’ Advisory Committee on Medical Manpower Planning worked out that if the doctors who wanted to postpone retirement and work two years longer were able to do so, its total supply of doctors would grow by four per cent between 2006 and 2030 instead of falling by one per cent. Education also plays a role, as there are many more students trying to enter the caring professions than there are places in university programs. 

The UK’s National Health Service currently employs about 26 per cent of its doctors from abroad (often from poorer countries that cannot afford the brain drain) while large numbers of domestic applications to get trained are turned down. In 2018, there were close to 21,000 applicants for just over 6,500 places. Given the coming shortfall, this simply must change.

If you enjoyed this presentation, check out our other short talks, from our video series 4 Short Talks about a Healthier Society:

Jay Cone on Creativity and Compassion in a Time of Chaos:

Mara Lederman on Leading the Way to Recovery:

Janet Krstevski on Unlocking Employee Potential:

Mark Britnell is the global healthcare expert for KPMG International, a senior partner at KPMG United Kingdom and senior fellow, global head of healthcare, government and infrastructure at KPMG International. He's also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Health Council. In January 2021, he joined the Rotman School as an executive-in-residence, where he works closely with the school’s Sandra Rotman Centre for Health Sector Strategy.