Healthcare sector is the backbone of any nation’s economy and healthcare workforce is one of the key differentiating factors responsible for the success of the healthcare sector. The vital role of healthcare workforce has been further emphasised by the Covid-19 pandemic, where health workers from different cadres united together and acted as the first line of response against the crisis.

The demand for healthcare workforce in India is currently on the rise due to multiple factors such as population growth, ageing, changing epidemiology, and increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). With the rise in demand, the existing gap between required and available healthcare workforce will inevitably widen. Acknowledging this challenge, the Indian government has undertaken initiatives for the augmentation of medical education infrastructure across the country. However, the issue of healthcare workforce shortage presents the dual difficulty of not just quantity but also quality. Thus, to comprehensively respond to the potential crises of healthcare workforce shortage, there is a need to focus on the following six key areas identified for the overall strengthening of the healthcare workforce.

India needs to converge its efforts toward healthcare workforce reforms and planning with equal participation from private sector to meet future needs by:

  • Setting up an ‘Empowered Group on National Healthcare Workforce’
  • Developing ‘National Healthcare Professional Registry and Accreditation System’
  • Strengthening the healthcare workforce with new cadres
  • Focused campaign to attract talent for the healthcare workforce
  • Formulating standard treatment guidelines for quality control
  • Organising a half-yearly national conclave for healthcare workforce planning under the aegis of an “Empowered Group on National Healthcare Workforce

India can construct an epidemiologic model for healthcare workforce planning that considers the health needs of the population, disease burden and population growth. The key to improving the quality of new doctors is to strengthen the learning approaches for both the students and faculty. Thus it is crucial to establish a National Health Skilling Platform (NHSP), develop a ‘National Healthcare Faculty Development Programme’ and build healthcare education institutes with innovative partnership models.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has exposed the systemic gaps and brought forth the need for financial assistance and incentivisation to healthcare education institutes in the form of financial aid or subsidies to the private sector. This will help in setting up as well as operationalising medical colleges and leveraging existing hospitals for training and skilling of the healthcare workforce. Healthcare companies should be encouraged to channel their CSR funds to provide specialist training to doctors.

Incentivisation of the student and workforce is imperative and can be brought in by providing preferential incentives including stipends during internships, easier access to personal loans at lower than market rates, free life & occupational hazard insurance, free medical insurance, reservations on seat allotment for rail, travel, preference for children’s admissions, etc. that may go a long way in attracting and retaining necessary talent in the workforce.

Digital literacy in the Indian healthcare workforce, particularly in rural areas, will be key to the success of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). A holistic effort and mission mode programme to drive digital health literacy must be formulated. E-learning platforms such as SWAYAM and DIKSHA can be used in digital universities to provide teachers with a structured, user-friendly, rich set of assistive tools for monitoring progress of learners.

The COVID-19 pandemic set into motion a digital revolution in India, and it is now imperative to incorporate simulation-based digital interventions for medical teaching and learning. A central funding scheme for setting up a simulation lab across medical education institutes could be explored that will play a big role in creating a future-ready healthcare workforce. Further, the metaverse can also be explored to provide experiential, embodied skilling opportunities using real-world scenarios and high-pressure situations.

Strengthening healthcare workforce in India: the 2047 agenda

The issue of healthcare workforce shortage presents dual difficulty of not just quantity but also quality. Thus, to comprehensively respond to the potential crises of healthcare workforce shortage, there is a need to focus on the following six key areas identified for the overall strengthening of healthcare workforce - embedding governance mechanisms with equal participation of private sector, developing teaching practices that support upskilling of the healthcare workforce and faculty, fostering and monetisation of healthcare educational, infrastructure, incentivisation and social safeguards for the healthcare workforce, leveraging digital universities and institutes while unlocking the potential of emerging technologies. This is the correct time for the government and the private players to work in synergy towards translating the top priorities into a plan and target to achieve the 2047 agenda of strengthening Indian healthcare workforce.

Opens in a new window

Key Contact