Newswise — The COVID-19 pandemic stressed healthcare systems, bringing many to a breaking point, and even as we emerge stronger, the workforce remains plagued by nursing and doctor shortages. The future of the healthcare workforce — both what it could and should look like and the technology they’ll be using — will be front and center at the upcoming inaugural Stern Future Health Workforce Summit at the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus on Tuesday, May 17.

“It’s not business as usual, and COVID taught us that,” College of Health Sciences Dean Kathleen S. Matt said. “We need to meet people where they are to help them achieve the best health outcomes. We build healthcare around hospitals and clinical sites, when in fact, what we need to do is embed health and wellness care into communities.”

Hosted by the College of Health Sciences and funded through the generous support of UD College of Arts and Sciences alumni Andrew M. Stern, Class of 1970, and Sabina Bobzin Stern, Class of 1971, the day-long seminar features four keynote speakers and afternoon panel discussions on interprofessional approaches to workforce and putting education to practice to codesign the workforce of the future.

Bertalan Meskó, director of the Medical Futurist Institute in Budapest, is among the highly anticipated speakers at the Stern Summit. Named a Top 100 Amazon Author and widely considered an influential global voice on healthcare technology, Meskó will weigh in on fascinating science fiction technologies that are becoming a reality in both medicine and healthcare. 

“With 5G, the connection is almost instantaneous,” Andrew Stern said. “So, the surgeon can be in Budapest; the patient can be at ChristianaCare in Wilmington; the anesthesiologist can be in Australia. The technology begs the question of who’s going to be in the operating room watching the robot hands work on the patient when we have a nursing shortage? We’ve got to figure it out.” 

Other keynote speakers include: Patrick Harker, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, who served as president of UD from 2007 to 2015; Robin Goldsmith, health innovation principal at Verizon; and Michelle Washko, director of the National Center for Healthcare Workforce Analysis.  

Stern said the summit’s focus will be on the convergence of data and artificial intelligence and human interaction. 

“If an algorithm can tell a physician or nurse practitioner what they have when they look at the EKG, it shortens the process,” Stern said. “You’ll never get rid of the human because machines can’t do that, but they can make processes more efficient.” 

Harker will talk about healthcare as an economic driver.

“Having been president of the University of Delaware, he knows the education side and the bottlenecks there; having been dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, prior to that, he understands the business economics of healthcare very well, and now being at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, he understands a much broader position of where the economy is going to go, how the cost of healthcare is rising, and what the effect of COVID has been,” Stern said. 

Goldsmith is expected to dive into connected health and how technology can be used to enhance healthcare delivery in ways that support care without hindering it. In addition to advances in telehealth, Goldsmith will touch on hospitals of the future and how streamlined virtual care and expanded connectivity can improve health outcomes and allow us to better treat and care for patients in their homes. 

Washko, a national expert on the U.S. healthcare system and health support workforces, is expected to discuss the federal position on advancing the healthcare workforce and answer questions about how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will adapt to meet evolving needs.   

“There are only five universities in the country that are looking at the healthcare workforce, and they’ve all shifted to a subsection of equity — so I wanted to find a place where we can talk about creating a much-needed pipeline that attracts a larger and more diverse population into the field of healthcare. The University of Delaware is that place," Stern said. "With rapid advances in technology that enable people to be diagnosed and treated at home, we'll need not just more healthcare workers but a more educated and agile team."

Matt stressed the need in healthcare to focus more on mental health. She also emphasized technology and noted academic institutions are often still training future doctors and nurses in traditional ways. By bringing healthcare leaders, stakeholders and educators to the table, Matt said she hopes the Stern Summit can serve as the beginning of a much-needed, broader conversation to reimagine the healthcare workforce of the future and the science education and training that’s needed to create that workforce. 

“The College of Health Sciences' Stern Summit is where innovative ideas are formulated and pushed out to flourish nationwide,” Matt said. “We hope this inaugural Stern Summit will be just the beginning of many inspiring conversations surrounding the future of the healthcare workforce and the delivery of healthcare services. We really want to stimulate change and reshape the traditional way of thinking so that people truly reimagine what the healthcare workforce could look like.”

The Stern Healthcare Workforce Summit is happening in the Audion at STAR Tower from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. It will also be streamed virtually