To cope with the imminent personnel shortages in the hospitals, productivity has to increase significantly. ING thinks this can be achieved by streamlining more processes and especially by digitizing.
If hospitals do not change the way they work, an immense personnel problem is imminent. Calculations show that in 2040 the healthcare institutions will need 170,000 more employees than now. Even when the working population is decreasing by 500,000 people.
It is not realistic to assume that all that personnel can be found, ING states in a study into the bottlenecks. Hospitals are already in short supply. The solution must be found in a higher labor productivity of the personnel. Now it grows by 0.4 percent per year. That can easily go to 1 percent if digitalization in healthcare is used, according to the bank.
If annual productivity increases by 1 percent instead of 0.4 percent, that will save 60,000 jobs in 2040, ING calculated. Savings of this kind are possible, examples from Sweden and England, among others, show.
The turnaround is urgently needed, says Jan Willem Spijkman, sector banker care at ING. ,, In the outline agreement of the cabinet it was agreed that the healthcare costs of hospitals will no longer increase in 2021. But the demand for care is increasing by 3 percent annually, mainly because of the aging population. ”
The agreement to control costs is already pinching in some places. A few hospitals have already introduced admission stops because the budget that they receive from the insurer on an annual basis has been exhausted. “Of course that does not apply to emergency care,” says Spijkman. “But for plannable help, such as a new hip.”
No wonder hospitals are diligently looking for ways to cut costs. And a great deal is expected of digitization, with which much progress has been made in recent years. “If you study communication with patients and with healthcare providers, those processes appear hardly digitized. There is still a lot to be gained there, ” says Spijkman.
“Look at the way in which an appointment is made. First you have to call the doctor for an appointment. Then you call the hospital and you can come over in a few weeks. There you sit in the waiting room for a while. Recipes are still sent by fax. And if you go to another hospital, you will receive a CD-ROM with your patient data. ”
Spijkman mainly expects benefits in people with chronic conditions. “People can make heart movies themselves or measure their blood pressure at home.” The data can be sent from home to the hospital and viewed by the attending physician. That saves a hospital visit. “It appears that patients prefer to do these kinds of actions at home or at the doctor’s rather than in the hospital,” says Spijkman.
Better monitoring allows faster intervention if something threatens to go wrong. This also saves money, because diseases and ailments are tackled early. This type of low-hanging fruit is fairly easy to pick and immediately saves on healthcare costs.
However, digitization in healthcare is still in its infancy. This has various causes, says Spijkman. “Hospitals are paid for the care they provide themselves. In practice, digitization means that less care is provided in the hospital. This saves turnover, while the institutions do have to invest in digitizing healthcare outside the hospital. ”
Not a pleasant combination
Higher costs and less turnover, that is not a pleasant combination. An adjustment in the funding would help. Another problem is that many hospitals set up a system themselves that does not communicate with systems of other players in the care chain. “In many places people are busy inventing the wheel,” says the sector banker.
In the report, ING argues for supra-regional cooperation via one platform. That could be organized around the teaching hospitals. “There must be standards so that patient data can be easily exchanged,” says Spijkman. If it goes well, the four to seven supra-regional platforms can also share patient information with each other.
If digitization succeeds, this will lead to a decrease in the number of patients visiting the outpatient clinic. Fewer hospital beds are also needed because patients can go home sooner if they are followed digitally, or if they no longer end up in the hospital.