Leveraging information technology to address the health workforce gap

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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

According to some estimates, the world needs more than 4 million additional physicians, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, midwives, community health workers (CHWs) and other front-line health workers. However, there is also a shortage of faculty that can provide high-quality training and mentorship for current training programmes and continuing education opportunities for health workers. The use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help to overcome these challenges. 


Recent global investments in fibre and wireless infrastructure, as well as innovations in e-learning, electronic health (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) and in the social media, can be leveraged to train, deploy, support and empower health workers. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that, in only four years (2007–2011), mobile broadband subscriptions in the developing world increased by more than tenfold: from 43 million to 458 million. Mobile devices and internet access are becoming increasingly necessary professional tools for health-care workers at all levels in developing countries. New fibre and wireless infrastructure, as well as the rapid growth of computer processing power, provide an unprecedented opportunity to scale up health worker training and improve its quality, as well as to optimize health service delivery and strengthen health systems.

Bollinger RC, Chang LW, Jafari AR, O’Callaghan T, Ngatia P, Settle D, McKenzie-White J, Patel K, Dossal A, Al Shorbaji NM. Leveraging information technology to address the health workforce gap (HRH theme issue). Bull World Health Org. 2013 Nov 1;91(11):890-1. PMCID:PMC3853951.

E-Development International, Baltimore, MD

iHeed Institute, Mitcheltown, Ireland

African Medical and Research Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya

CapacityPlus, Intrahealth International, Chapel Hill, NC

Global Partnerships Forum, New York, NY

World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland