Rethinking Workforce Planning for Integrated Care: Using Scenario Analysis to Facilitate Policy Development
Rees, GH; Crampton, P; Gauld, R; MacDonell, S
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BACKGROUND: A goal of health workforce planning is to have the most appropriate workforce available to meet prevailing needs. However, this is a difficult task when considering integrated care, as future workforces may require different numbers, roles and skill mixes than those at present. With this uncertainty and large variations in what constitutes integrated care, current health workforce policy and planning processes are poorly placed to respond. In order to address this issue, we present a scenario-based workforce planning approach. METHODS: We propose a novel mixed methods design, incorporating content analysis, scenario methods and scenario analysis through the use of a policy Delphi. The design prescribes that data be gathered from workforce documents and studies that are used to develop scenarios, which are then assessed by a panel of suitably qualified people. Assessment consists of evaluating scenario desirability, feasibility and validity and includes a process for indicating policy development opportunities. RESULTS: We confirmed our method using data from New Zealand's Older Persons Health sector and its workforce. Three scenarios resulted, one that reflects a normative direction and two alternatives that reflect key sector workforce drivers and trends. One of these, based on alternative assumptions, was found to be more desirable by the policy Delphi panel. The panel also found a number of favourable policy proposals. CONCLUSIONS: The method shows that through applying techniques that have been developed to accommodate uncertainty, health workforce planning can benefit when confronting issues associated with integrated care. The method contributes to overcoming significant weaknesses of present health workforce planning approaches by identifying a wider range of plausible futures and thematic kernels for policy development. The use of scenarios provides a means to contemplate future situations and provides opportunities for policy rehearsal and reflection.