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Healthcare Faces Fresh Challenges, May Take A Backseat: Global Leaders At WEF

Stressing the surging healthcare inflation, Bishen, said that healthcare costs are out of control and it's not just a pain in the US but all around the globe. “The US is close to USD 5 trillion out of the USD 12 trillion in terms of the overall healthcare spending globally, which has gone from eight and half trillion in 2018 to 12 trillion in 2022.”

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On Wednesday the global healthcare leaders speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos highlighted some of the ongoing hurdles that the global economy is facing, contending that the energy crises, geopolitical tensions and climate change pose fresh challenges for the planet’s healthcare system that it needs to deal with collectively.

Addressing a panel on health systems: building through disruption at WEF, Roy Jakobs, CEO of Royal Phillips stated that some of the healthcare delivery learnings which were enabled by technology that the industry adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic would actually fall back as the world moves on to the next crises. 

“The world is dealing with multiple crises at the same time, as energy and climate are a very important issue that we need to deal with. And then there is geopolitical tension and we even have warfare to deal with. So it might happen that healthcare would fall back and we may start to actually conduct healthcare as we used to. Whereas we should now be moving forward and actually building on what we started to learn and practice which is also needed to get much broader and wider access to care,” said Jakobs.

Enumerating on the global pressures on the healthcare systems on account of significant macroeconomic headwinds Vas Narasimhan, CEO, Novartis said that governments are under huge pressures from a fiscal standpoint and there will be a retrenchment on investment in healthcare, particularly in low and low and middle-income countries. “I think we have to continue to advocate that healthcare investment is an investment for the long run, an investment in economies and ultimately an investment in the long-term success of countries,” stated Narasimhan.

The Novartis CEO also highlighted the growing threat of neglected non-communicable diseases and stressed the opportunity for healthcare systems to make early detection to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases and ensure that these populations have a sustainable opportunity to be healthy. 

Healthcare Costs

Highlighting the learnings of the Covid 19 pandemic and the stellar public private partnerships Merck, CEO, Belen Garijo said “I was very confident that after having experienced that period, governments and policymakers would be ready to move the mindset from considering health a cost to considering health a strategic investment.” She added that a healthy society is highly productive and that could contribute much more actively to the global economic growth.

Shouldering the response Shyam Bishen, Head of Healthcare at WEF said that the pandemic has made the world realise that any kind of investment in healthcare should be treated as an investment and not as a cost.

Although he also pointed towards the other aspect of cost, stressing the surging healthcare inflation, Bishen said that healthcare costs are out of control and it's not just a pain in the US but all around the globe. “The US is close to USD 5 trillion out of the USD 12 trillion in terms of the overall healthcare spending globally, which has gone from eight and half trillion in 2018 to 12 trillion in 2022.”

Adding that it's a significant increase of almost 50 per cent. He said China is another example of running high healthcare costs but the question is how should the world control it? “One of the things is looking at digital technologies and telemedicine. The Indian Minister was telling us that 250,000 calls were being made during the pandemic, we need to capitalise on that to make sure that we use those technologies to make healthcare much more cost-effective,” he said.

Healthcare Workforce Scarcity 

Another pressing challenge that the global healthcare fraternity is faced with is recruiting and retaining medical talent, it is predicted that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 10 million healthcare workers and it is already being witnessed in the hospitals in particular over the last few years. 

Highlighting that this is an acute problem that the industry faces, Gianrico Farrugia, President and CEO, Mayo Clinic said that “Unless we do something about this, this will only become a chronic problem, I think healthcare, in general, needs to better articulate our value proposition. And we actually have a very strong value proposition. There are very few sectors that one can join and impact the world. You can impact patients every day.”

He said that the healthcare industry needs to provide a stable and flexible environment  and ensure that once a person is recruited they are retained. Farrugia stated that the sector is advancing at a rapid pace which makes people threatened by new entrants who come with digital capabilities. They begin to question whether they are actually needed anymore,  “We need to make sure that we do give these people tools to feel that they are comfortable in healthcare, that they can continue to make a difference, and that in fact, they are much needed as they ever were,” he added.