Task shifting–delegating tasks to existing or new health cadres with either less training or narrowly tailored training–is a promising policy option to increase the productive efficiency of the delivery of health care services, increasing the number of services provided at a given quality and cost, a study finds.

For example, in Mozambique, surgically trained assistant medical officers, who were the key providers in district hospitals, produced similar patient outcomes at a significantly lower cost as compared to physician obstetricians and gynecologists.

Although task shifting is promising, it can present its own challenges. For example, a study analyzing task shifting in HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa noted quality and safety concerns, professional and institutional resistance, and the need to sustain motivation and performance.

“Task shifting is a policy option that should be considered to help achieve productive efficiency and provide access to services that otherwise might not be available,” the study concluded.

Source:
1. Fulton BD, Scheffler RM, Sparkes SP, et al. Health workforce skill mix and task shifting in low income countries: a review of recent evidence. Human Resources for Health 2011; 9: 1. (open access)

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