High stress prompts nearly half of younger SA doctors to consider quitting — Philips survey

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Work-related stress levels are so high that 43% of younger South African healthcare workers have considered leaving the profession. The Future Health Index 2020 produced by Philips South Africa also reveals, however, that younger doctors have “high expectations” that adopting appropriate technologies will reduce stress and are excited by medical technology.

Philips South Africa, which describes itself a global leader in health technology, launched its Future Health Index (FHI) 2020 South Africa report on 13 November 2020, during a webinar held in collaboration with MedicalBrief. The report is titled “The Age of Opportunity: Empowering the next generation to transform healthcare”.

The survey provides unique perspectives into how prepared the next generation of healthcare professionals are to manage tomorrow’s healthcare. It reveals a pressing need to prioritise career satisfaction of the younger generation of South African healthcare professionals in order to deliver current and future care needs.

Now in its fifth year, the Future Health Index 2020 report is the first large-scale survey of its kind based on responses from almost 3,000 younger healthcare professionals across 15 countries. It uncovers critical insights from this new generation that that will comprise most of the healthcare workforce over the next 20 years.

The Future Health Index South Africa 2020 report identifies three critical findings:

1- It is vital to create ideal healthcare working environments to retain healthcare professionals

Across the globe, younger healthcare professionals juggle immense responsibility with long working hours, leading to stress and potential burnout. But the report places South Africans at the forefront – 82% reported regularly experiencing work-related stress, among the highest across all 15-countries surveyed, while 43% considered leaving the profession as a result of work-related stress; 9% higher than the 15-country average.

The shortage of healthcare professionals in South Africa is likely a large factor contributing to high levels of work-related stress felt by younger healthcare professionals. There is a danger that stress, combined with inflexible working cultures and a lack of empowerment, could prompt an early exodus from the profession.

“It is vital for healthcare leaders to prioritise the working conditions of the younger generation of South African healthcare professionals in order to protect the future integrity of the healthcare system,” says Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile, a medical doctor and vice president of Mental Matters.

“This means taking care of all their talents’ needs including creating spaces to allow for a better work-life balance, improved working hours, access to mental health care services including debriefing on site, and autonomy in the hospital or practice where they are working.”

2- South African healthcare professionals rate technology as highly as work-life balance

Unlike their peers in some of the other countries surveyed, younger South African healthcare professionals rate the latest technology as highly as work-life balance when deciding where to work, possibly due to its potential to decrease their workloads and work-related stress.

Therefore, improved technology may be one way to retain their talent and expertise, as most younger healthcare professionals in South Africa are excited about the future of their profession due to technology.

For instance, 57% of those surveyed believe that being at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is important when choosing a hospital or practice in which to work. This can be directly linked to AI’s perceived potential impact; 79% believe that AI will allow them to provide patients with more accurate diagnoses, and 77% believe that it can provide them with the tools to keep patients healthy – both above the global averages of 71%.

Alongside advancements in AI, younger healthcare professionals in South Africa rate digital health technologies as an important tool to achieve better patient outcomes (83%) and improved patients’ experiences (77%), and believe it will create more time to spend with patients (60%).

This against the backdrop of younger South African healthcare professionals reporting that they have insufficient data to influence outcomes and feel that the data they have available does not lead to actionable insights – a reality exceeding experiences of those in many of the other countries surveyed.

Technology has the power to transform delivery, improve patient care, provide work satisfaction and drive value-based care. It also gives younger healthcare professionals the ability to shape future healthcare systems with care at the core.

“By investing in technology, we are essentially putting people first, while safeguarding against the collapse of the healthcare system,” says Jasper Westerink, CEO of Philips Africa. “Ultimately these efforts will translate to better patient care, improved practitioner experience and satisfaction, and a better healthcare system that delivers value-based care.”

3- Younger South African healthcare professionals need continuous education to help build their non-clinical skills

Across all countries surveyed, many younger healthcare professionals say their medical education did not provide them with key non-clinical skills necessary for modern healthcare.

Many younger South African healthcare professionals feel unprepared for business administration tasks and are among the most likely of their peers across all the countries surveyed to feel unprepared to drive efficiencies within their hospital or practice.

“If I had to envision the healthcare system of the future, it would involve a complete overhaul,” says Dr Shakira Choonara, an independent public health practitioner, Operation Smile Ambassador and 2017 Woman of the Year in Health, South Africa.

“Most of our healthcare systems are severely outdated, they are simply not tailored to us, the next generation, either as professionals or as patients.”

In addition to limited business acumen and legacy systems, measurement practices could be contributing to the performance of the health system in South Africa.

While there is a general shift towards value-based care models in healthcare systems across the world, there is limited or no knowledge of value-based care among many younger healthcare professionals across all the countries surveyed. This is just as true for younger healthcare professionals in South Africa, indicating a need to improve their understanding.

A high 93% of younger healthcare professionals in South Africa say their hospitals or practices use volume-based measures such as number or patients seen, spend per patient, number of beds filled or number of tests ordered, rather than value-based care measures with patient outcomes at its core.

Given that younger healthcare professionals will ultimately be responsible for implementing this shift from volume to value-based care, their understanding of the concept is critical.

The findings of the Future Health Index 2020 report demonstrate that we are at a crucial moment in the journey to the future of healthcare.

“While change won’t happen overnight, these findings give healthcare leaders serious incentives to tackle some of the pain points they must address today in order to drive successful outcomes down the line,” says Westerink.

“The challenge of transforming healthcare lies on the shoulders of this next generation of healthcare professionals. It is imperative that we create better work-life balance, empower them with clinical and non-clinical skills, and drive autonomy in the hospital or practice where they are working which could be significantly improved by the implementation of new technology, to address the local needs and improve patient outcomes.

“Because the inverse is simply not an option.”

About Royal Philips

Since 2016, Philips has conducted original research to help determine the readiness of countries to address global health challenges and build efficient and effective healthcare systems.

Royal Philips describes itself as a leading health technology company focused on improving people's health and enabling better outcomes across the health continuum from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care. Philips leverages advanced technology and deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions.

Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company is a leader in diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, as well as in consumer health and home care. Philips generated 2019 sales of EUR19.5 billion and employs approximately 80,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries.


The age of opportunity: Empowering the next generation to transform healthcare


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