Task shifting between healthcare workers can reduce health costs

Added May 1, 2020

Citation: Seidman G, Atun R. Does task shifting yield cost savings and improve efficiency for health systems? A systematic review of evidence from low-income and middle-income countries. Human Resources for Health 2017; 15: 29

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic is placing a great strain on health systems and healthcare workers. One way to ease this may be to use task shifting to move the care of some patient groups from more to less specialised healthcare workers.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies that reported program costs from a task shifted model for conducting the activity or service compared to a model that did not involve task shifting and were done in low- or middle-income countries. They restricted their search to studies published in English and did the search in March 2016. They identified 34 studies which analysed the cost implications of task shifting in sub-Saharan Africa (22 studies), Asia (8) and Central or South America (4).

What was found: Task shifting was found to vary based on the context and involved more than just transferring activities to community health workers.

Task shifting, for example to community health workers, can reduce health costs for patients and health systems in low- and middle-income countries.

The cost savings from task shifting may improve efficiency in the health system in primary care and community health care setting.

Most of the available evidence was from primary and community care settings, and the effects of task shifting within hospitals, secondary, tertiary and specialized care are uncertain.

The available evidence was spread across many disease areas, making it difficult to form conclusions about the cost savings of task shifting for specific diseases, apart from tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.


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