The European Health Management Association (EHMA) and Health First Europe (HFE) are honoured to announce the launch of the report of the EU Health Policy Platform Stakeholder Network on ‘Profiling and Training the Healthcare Workforce of the Future’ on essential skills for a resilient and effective European health workforce.
The report was presented the 22nd of September at the meeting of the Innovation in Health and Social Care Interest Group in the European Parliament.
The report, through its recommendations addressing policy-makers at European and national, regional, local level, aims to trigger change on the ground by raising awareness of the existing and foreseeable skills gaps of the European health workforce in the context of visible trends and challenges.
The Stakeholder Network co-moderated by EHMA and HFE has identified four skill areas pivotal to delivering better, more resilient, sustainable and effective person-centred care:
- Digital, eHealth and AI skills;
- Patient-centred communication skills;
- Interdisciplinary and coordination skills;
- Green skills.
The recommendations around these four skills areas highlight how the healthcare workforce can best be supported to acquire essential skills needed to cope with the main healthcare challenges of the 21st century. These include:
- DIGITAL SKILLS: Up-scale and effectively integrate digital competencies, including eHealth and mHealth, into health professionals’ education and training programmes, as well as through lifelong learning, continuing professional development, staff exchange programmes, and pre-certification of medical societies. These programmes should include courses on big data processes and AI applications, and digital modules about the benefits of digital health tools. Pan-European digital academies should also be offered to clinicians. Promote regulatory skills for healthcare professionals to achieve better and safer care outcomes.
- COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS: Incorporate effective and patient-centred communication in training programmes as well as in academic curricula across Europe including skills to nurture patient engagement. Focus on communication capacity with vulnerable groups and older persons.
- INTERDISCIPLINARY AND COLLABORATION SKILLS: Assess and address the needs of educators delivering interdisciplinary and collaboration skills development as a foundation for enhancing this complex competency. Focus on adaptability in healthcare professionals’ education programmes. Provide possibilities for interdisciplinary education and certified training on inter-disciplinary management skills. Foster collaboration between healthcare professionals, technicians, including digital and environmental experts and administrative staff. Introduce simulation training methodologies which can be particularly useful and efficient to experiment interprofessional and interdisciplinary teamwork. Embrace the ‘one health’ approach in education.
- GREEN SKILLS: Promote existing good practices and raise awareness of what green and sustainability skills mean and what new job positions will be needed. Enhance climate literacy and climate health literacy.
Any concrete actions around these four areas should be preceded by a large-scale and comprehensive data collection about health workforce skills needs allowing accurate planning and analysis. Two conditions have been emphasised around the recommended actions: a consistent overall approach and long-term sustainability. A strategy would be instrumental to ensure that the recommended actions do not remain isolated measures, but rather are implemented consistently over time.
In order to secure long-term sustainability for the upskilling and reskilling actions, it is not only the healthcare professionals but also their educators who should be upskilled and reskilled and the educational and training institutions should be equipped with the necessary infrastructure and knowledge so that they can provide courses and training sessions continuously over time addressing large audiences in a tailored manner. It applies to all skills mentioned above but particularly to complex skills such as interprofessional and interdisciplinary teamwork.
Last but not least of all, top-down measures such as education reforms and prioritisation of health workforce skills development on the political agenda should be combined with a continuous engagement of healthcare professionals in monitoring and evaluating their performance and eventually developing training materials.