Toward the Future of Healthcare Workers: upcoming trends and challenges

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May 2023
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the decisive factors for the future health workforce are manifold. The health workforce is the backbone of healthcare, with the common goal of improving the health of individuals and populations, but its characteristics, competencies and functions are evolving gradually. In attempting to predict the attributes and roles of the health workforce in the future, it is essential to examine social, occupational, cultural and technological contexts and trends, including those related to health, education and the environment.
In this sense, it is appropriate to use futuristic frameworks to outline what might happen and the potential impact, considering different alternatives. This approach helps to identify possible scenarios and to plan actions to close the gaps between preferred and probable futures. For example, digital and genomic literacy of healthcare personnel cannot be postponed, both for those in training and for those who routinely provide care to users. Maintaining the status quo without considering this currently unmet need represents a reduction in the capabilities and competencies of the healthcare workforce for the foreseeable future.
This paper establishes an analytical framework that attempts to anticipate what is possible and desirable in the area of HCWs and seeks to establish the influence of: (i) policies aimed at achieving universal coverage; (ii) demographic trends and population health needs, such as chronic diseases, public health emergencies and climate change; (iii) the convergence of technological innovation; and (iv) users participation in healthcare.
In response to these circumstances, this publication provides useful elements to understand the context and identify the importance for health and education systems to prepare, adapt and promote the necessary changes to shape the future competencies, roles and diversity of the health workforce that Latin America and the Caribbean will require in the coming decades.