Leveraging IT to address health workforce gaps – The Alliance participates at the GET Health Summit

The Alliance was present at the much talked about GETHealth Summit held in New York from 6 - 7 February, which brought together a global audience of health care providers, researchers, educators, as well as business and IT leaders to generate fresh knowledge, partnerships, and ideas to effectively leverage IT in addressing health workforce gaps.

The Alliance represented by Dr Mubashar Sheikh, was present on a panel - Can the creation of Centers of Excellence - that would serve as hubs for innovation, research, knowledge sharing and capacity-building in ICT – help to catalyze better and smarter use of ICT in training the health care and health research workforce? He emphasized the importance of new technologies not only in terms of transforming the way health workers acquire knowledge as part of ICT-empowered learning; but also by the way care is delivered - where health professionals are the key service providers linking people to technology, information, and knowledge.

As an example of positive effects that extend beyond the mere acquisition of technical competencies, he referred to a Federal Ministry of Health in Ethiopia pilot project supported by the Global Health Workforce Alliance and the World Health Organization, to establish three pilot knowledge sharing and exchange centres, or simply knowledge centres (KCs), in sub-urban and rural communities in Ethiopia.

Through the establishment of knowledge centres, frontline health workers based in rural areas of Ethiopia were given access for the first time to internet connections and computers, that they could use to access a range of information sources, including publications, videos, resource centers and facilities like HINARI, etc. The establishment of these knowledge centres has hugely improved the image of the health facilities where they were created, in a sense that newly assigned professionals had indicated preferences for applying for positions there. Physicians started to apply skills they learnt from videos/clips of the resources that are available in the knowledge centres for their day to day work. Health workers working in the priority programs such HIV/AIDS, maternal health, TB have taken initiatives to adopt and adapt guideline using the available resources in the knowledge center.

With this example, Dr Sheikh said “Every country needs to find specific solutions to its own problems, and ICT provides no shortcut to deep-seated structural health system challenges. But it does represent a new tool to be added to the arsenal of policy options and initiatives that may be explored to guarantee a more equitable access to quality health services, and this opportunity should not be missed”.