A labor requirements function for sizing the health workforce

Sofia Cruz-Gomes*, Mário Amorim-Lopes, Bernardo Almada-Lobo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Ensuring healthcare delivery is dependent both on the prediction of the future demand for healthcare services and on the estimation and planning for the Health Human Resources needed to properly deliver these services. Although the Health Human Resources planning is a fascinating and widely researched topic, and despite the number of methodologies that have been used, no consensus on the best way of planning the future workforce requirements has been reported in the literature. This paper aims to contribute to the extension and diversity of the range of available methods to forecast the demand for Health Human Resources and assist in tackling the challenge of translating healthcare services to workforce requirements. Methods: A method to empirically quantify the relation between healthcare services and Health Human Resources requirements is proposed. For each one of the three groups of specialties identified-Surgical specialties, Medical specialties and Diagnostic specialties (e.g., pathologists)-a Labor Requirements Function relating the number of physicians with a set of specialty-specific workload and capital variables is developed. This approach, which assumes that health managers and decision-makers control the labor levels more easily than they control the amount of healthcare services demanded, is then applied to a panel dataset comprising information on 142 public hospitals, during a 12-year period. Results: This method provides interesting insights on healthcare services delivery: the number of physicians required to meet expected variations in the demand for healthcare, the effect of the technological progress on healthcare services delivery, the time spent on each type of care, the impact of Human Resources concentration on productivity, and the possible resource allocations given the opportunity cost of the physicians' labor. Conclusions: The empirical method proposed is simple and flexible and produces statistically strong models to estimate Health Human Resources requirements. Moreover, it can enable a more informed allocation of the available resources and help to achieve a more efficient delivery of healthcare services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2018


  • Health human resources
  • Labor productivity
  • Labor requirements function
  • Opportunity costs


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