Can hospitals’ talent pool keep up?

It is time hospitals prioritise training and development for staff, particularly at a time when digital skills are indispensable to the healthcare ecosystem.

Technology has taken over our lives, be it within our homes, at schools, in offices, and even hospitals. Big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cloud sharing, and remote monitoring are just some of the buzz words we often hear every day.

But even with the reality of the 4th industrial revolution right at our faces, we still see hospitals struggling to bring digital skills into their operation. This isn’t an isolated case, because we see the same IT skills gap across industries. A 2018 report finds 11.3 million people in the United Kingdom lacking basic digital skills, 4.3 million people with no basic digital skills at all, and 5.4 million employees without these skills.

In Asia, the situation is not at all better, considering most developing countries in the region are still in the earliest stages of their digital transformation journey. The healthcare industry especially suffers the impact of the IT skills gap.

Now, more than ever, we see the benefit of digitalisation in providing care. Technology equips clinicians with better knowledge of diseases, proposes new and more efficient treatment methods, and improves healthcare practices.

Technology allows patients to be more active participants in their care, enabling them to access hospital-quality care at their homes. For patients to embrace digital, however, healthcare providers must become advocates of it. They can only do so once they themselves have digital literacy or have the necessary basic digital skills to use these digital technologies.

Narumol Pimpa, former Human Resources Director at Bangpakok 9 Hospital and currently Human Resource Consultant at Medical Development Clinic, believes that training and development programs will aid hospitals to close the digital skills gap. While she understands that the process might be difficult, she is also optimistic that the process will only take some time to ultimately succeed.

More often than not, hospitals do not prioritise training and development programs, particularly on digital skills, because they are more focused on other issues, often medically related. Clinical quality, patient safety, compliance, and certification usually take precedence than upskilling staff.

Still, organisations can take the process step by step. First, hospitals ought to bring the digital health system when developing organisational strategies, Pimpa suggests. The top management has to give support in this endeavour. Likewise, Pimpa highlights that guidelines, both passive and proactive, must be in place.

Developing training programs for different learning styles is also helpful, especially when there is hesitation from the staff to undergo training programs. We have to be willing to use a variety of different teaching methods, make the programs interactive, personalise information so it is specific to your hospital, and ensure training reflects changing skills by evaluating learnings. It is important, Pimpa says, to set up a system and assign appropriate personnel to monitor and analyse results.

Pimpa adds how more channels or resources will improve knowledge management within the organisation. “This will also encourage people in the organisation to be more open to learning digital health systems,” she adds.

Strategies to encourage hospital employees to participate in training and development would depend on the organisational structure. Human Resources departments could definitely make this happen. What is more important, however, is the priority it gets from hospital leaders.