South Africa’s healthcare industry finds itself at a crossroads.
Ballooning medical legal claims running into billions of rand coupled with increasing doctor and nursing shortages are placing tremendous strain on the health system.
The Life Healthcare Group estimates that the country is some 26 000 nurses short, while a 2021 poll by the South African Medical Association shows a mass emigration of doctors is expected if the government rolls out National Health Insurance, with medical professionals believing the state simply does not have the financial capability to guarantee the success of the service.
Medical legal claims are particularly concerning. In June, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi told the DA in a written response that patient negligence claims in Gauteng public hospitals grew from 4 701 in 2020 to 6 910 in 2021 – an alarming increase of 47%. In the Eastern Cape, medico-legal claims amounting to almost R40 billion rand have been made against the provincial health department, severely impacting its ability to render crucial services to people in one of the country’s poorest regions.
These claims speak to the enormous toll the system is taking on health professionals, with the added pressures resulting in a growing number of mistakes and incidents of negligence.
While it is apparent that strong and accountable political leadership is required to bring the situation in hand, at the coal face on the industry steps can be taken to alleviate the stresses existing in hospitals and clinics.
The first of these is to address the nursing dearth, and to this end, hospital groups like Life Healthcare have already announced that they will be setting a target of training 3 000 nurses a year.
Paul Hanly, co-founder of South African end-to-end online learning solution provider New Leaf Technologies, says the quality and reach of training will be key. If mistakes in the medical industry are to be reduced, it is essential that a data-driven approach, rather than speculation, is the focus.
“Data can be used to streamline processes and provide new ways to monitor safety practices, generating real-world evidence to support decision-making in hospitals and the medical profession as a whole,” he says.
Online training strategies that focus on individual learners or hospital-specific needs result in greater learning and retention, less time in training, and ultimately, more effective health workers.
These training solutions can be applied to all sub-sectors of the health industry.
New Leaf recently worked with a global clinical research organisation that provides outsourced clinical development and commercialisation to the pharmaceutical industry in 48 countries.
The company sought a digital solution that was engaging, interactive, learner-centric, flexible and embraced a “choose-your-own-adventure meet augmented reality” approach, given its vast reach across the world.
All new staffers were introduced to the solution which covered all aspects of what employees need to know on their first day. New Leaf was able to advise on a better way to launch the solution, splitting it into individual modules and decreasing the file size with the least amount of impact on the quality of the images and videos.
Because the learning solution is delivered digitally it has enabled the company to deploy facilitators previously involved with delivery of the solution to other activities.
Online Learning & Development strategies are already shaping health responses globally, and as such can effectively assist in turning South Africa’s current situation around.
The highly-flexible Talent-as-a-Service approach model helps the medical industry retain the right talent via cloud-based platforms, employees are easily upskilled or reskilled, and micro-learning for healthcare staff improves the overall patient experience by providing relevant, adaptable technical training.
New Leaf offers a range of products able to enhance training programmes in the health and wellness space.
“What we ultimately aim to create through our online training programmes are organisational cultures noted for best practice and that reinforce patient safety,” Hanly says.
Should this occur, it follows that the South African health industry should find itself on firmer footing, with nursing and doctor enrolments improving to meet the country’s growing demand.