Younger healthcare professionals in APAC resilient despite Covid-19, yet face hurdles in driving change, says Royal Philips

Royal Philips has announced findings from its study of 15 countries, the Future Health Index. It reveals the dedication and commitment of younger healthcare professionals to improve healthcare amidst Covid-19 and puts the spotlight on experiences and challenges that call for greater change within healthcare.

Now in its fifth year, this year’s survey is the first global survey of its kind on younger generation of healthcare professionals under the age of 40. The Future Health Index (FHI) 2020 report: ‘The age of opportunity: Empowering the next generation to transform healthcare’, paints a realistic picture of the state of healthcare systems on the eve of the Covid-19 crisis, covering nearly 3,000 respondents across 15 countries.

At the onset of Covid-19, 82 percent of younger healthcare professionals surveyed in APAC countries said they are satisfied with their work, despite seeing more patients per week (103 on average) than their peers in the United States of America (99) or the Netherlands (65). Potentially as a result of higher patient volumes, 34 percent say work-related stress have made them consider leaving the profession, as compared to Saudi Arabia (45 percent) or the United States of America (46 percent). 

Months into Covid-19, the experiences of younger doctors have been impacted, with an outlier being Singapore. The Future Health Index Insights report found that younger doctors surveyed in Singapore remain committed and positive – with the experiences and lessons learned during this period leaving them with a deeper feeling of purpose at work (57 percent, vs 39 percent  average of the five countries surveyed) and having greater appreciation from patients (64 percent, vs 47 percent average of the five countries surveyed).

Notwithstanding their experiences working during the Covid-19 pandemic, 68 percent of younger doctors in Singapore say they are more likely to stay in medicine, compared to the US (13 percent) and Germany (23 percent).

They see the benefits of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and telehealth to transform healthcare, particularly during Covid-19. Almost nine in 10 (87 percent) agree that the right digital health technologies have the potential to reduce their workload, while 77 percent say they will improve patients’ experiences, and 76 percent say adopting them could help decrease their stress levels.

In Malaysia, there is potential for greater use of technologies to automate and help alleviate repetitive, labour intensive tasks in the medical field. Digital solutions such as telemedicine are key to overcoming current physical barriers of access to care, while smart patient monitoring solutions can help identify potential risks intelligently, easing the burden of healthcare professionals.

Despite their dedication to their patients and firm belief in the work they do, younger healthcare professionals surveyed in APAC are concerned about the skills gaps they face, or a shortfall in career reality compared to their expectations during their medical education (42 percent). Work-related stress, potentially leading to burnout are also a reality for 73% younger healthcare professionals here, which could be impacted by the higher patient volumes they see per week.

In Malaysia, while the current ratio of healthcare workers to people is 1:186, above the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 1:225, there is potential to advance efforts to expand the healthcare workforce by also looking into the work experiences of current healthcare workers. Additionally, tapping on innovation can help healthcare professionals build additional skill sets in a digital era, for better patient outcomes.

Alongside the digitalisation of healthcare, APAC’s younger healthcare professionals also feel underprepared when dealing with data. Around half (47 percent) say their medical education prepared them a little or not at all for data-related aspects of their jobs such as analysis and interpretation. Despite this, 51 percent also say they receive continuous training in this area in their hospital and practice, in response to closing the data-related skills gaps.

At least half (56 percent) of APAC’s younger healthcare professionals believe they can drive change in how their hospital is changed or managed, yet among those who feel they can’t drive change or don’t know if they can, 48 percent feel that their voices and suggestions are not acted upon, listened or acknowledged. The decisions made by non-medical stakeholders was also noted to negatively impact 30 percent of the region’s younger healthcare professionals, affecting their overall job satisfaction.

Many still worry about not being able to cope with the evolving needs of healthcare practice. Increased administration burdens, such as documenting electronic medical records and increased litigation/legal exposure, have a major negative impact on the professional satisfaction of younger healthcare professionals here (38 percent and 48 percent respectively).

Key workplace factors important to APAC’s younger healthcare professionals surveyed when choosing where to work include having access to the latest medical equipment and technology (69 percent), professional autonomy (65 percent), a collaborative culture (65 percent), and support of work-life balance (71 percent). “Younger healthcare professionals today shoulder the responsibility of transforming the future of healthcare, yet many still feel their views are unheard, experience hurdles in non-clinical aspects in practice, and are subject to stress as a result of their tireless dedication to caring for patients,” said Caroline Clarke, Market Leader, Philips ASEAN Pacific.

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