Focusing on preventive care, improving working conditions and investing in technology are key strategies for building a brighter future for Ireland’s healthcare system.
It’s no secret that the current healthcare system in Ireland is under tremendous strain, admits Lana Kane, director at Medforce. “It’s all over the media that there’s a medical workforce shortage, from healthcare assistants to consultants.”
Ireland healthcare shortages
The ageing population has increased by 22% since the early 2000s, reveals Kane, and about 70% of this demographic has at least one chronic illness. “It’s increasing the demand for healthcare services. The Government is trying to invest in infrastructure and staff to meet it.”
Attracting and retaining talent is a huge challenge. “There isn’t enough staff in Ireland to meet demand,” says Kane. “Many are being enticed abroad by attractive packages. We try to recruit from other countries, but they have to do time-consuming specialised exams to work in Ireland, which can put off potential candidates.”
Medical professionals are working 80 hours
a week, which isn’t sustainable.
Reducing the strain on Ireland’s healthcare will take more than increasing the number of staff, warns Kane. Instead, an integrated strategy is required. “Long-term sustainability requires a multifaceted approach,” she says. “Investments in primary care and a focus on prevention are required to cut back on treatment costs.”
Accessibility and technology play key roles in improving healthcare. “By making information more accessible, patients can receive more coordinated care,” says Kane. “Technologies can improve medical delivery, such as telemedicine which frees up emergency departments for patients in urgent need.”
Improving working conditions
Despite challenges, healthcare will look different by 2050, says Kane. “Medical professionals are working 80 hours a week, which isn’t sustainable,” she says. “Shorter working hours are being looked at for a better work-life balance, such as reducing 12-hour shifts to six-hour shifts.”
The future will see more empowered patients who can manage their health from home. “Patients will be able to use community devices to collect data and send it to doctors to diagnose virtually,” Kane says. “It’ll reduce the burden on hospitals and move some primary care into people’s homes. The way forward is technology-driven.”