What Doctors and Nurses Say They Need For An Effective Digital Transformation of Healthcare

Jan Herzhoff

By Jan Herzhoff, president, Elsevier Health Global Markets.

The statistics will make your heart sink. Doctors and nurses are feeling undervalued and burned out, facing reported and anticipated workforce shortages at the frontlines, all while dealing with the continued impact of the pandemic. It’s been found that 47% of U.S. healthcare workers plan to leave their positions by 2025, with 74% of clinicians globally predicting there will be a shortage of nurses and 68% predicting a shortage of doctors in ten years.

Through global in-depth research of nearly 3,000 doctors and nurses from 111 countries, we asked healthcare professionals to consider the consequences of the pandemic and provide insights on the challenges and opportunities they expect to face over the next decade – many having to do with new and emerging technologies.

The result is Elsevier Health’s Clinician of the Future report, in which we explored the global trends and changes identified in the research, that will impact the future of healthcare and its digital transformation. By listening to the voices of nurses and doctors themselves, and understanding the challenges they are facing, we will help forge a better path forward.

Today, technology plays a crucial role in transforming healthcare. In fact, according to the Clinician of the Future report, 88% of clinicians globally agree that being technologically savvy is more important in their daily role today than it was a decade ago.

Looking ahead 10 years, clinicians believe obtaining “technology literacy” will be their most valuable tool, ranking even higher than “clinical knowledge.” However, clinicians are still acutely aware of the consequences that may result from the recent rapid evolution of digital healthcare. Findings from the report highlight that 69% of the global workforce is concerned the widespread use of digital health technology will become another burden.

Despite these concerns, clinicians still see the potential of technology to help deliver optimal patient outcomes. These insights provide a roadmap for change and point to key trending areas of focus while on our path toward an effective digital transformation of healthcare.

Making Data Work for Clinicians and Patients:

Data is exploding across every sector in the world, with the healthcare industry generating 30% of the world’s data volume. Experts at International Data Corp (IDC) predict that by 2025 the healthcare industry will be the fastest-growing source of data worldwide.

As the rise in digital health tools adds to the abundance of data, clinicians are struggling with how to use the information in impactful ways. Findings from the report demonstrate that clinicians believe they need more time to learn how to use all this data, with 83% of physicians and nurses worldwide saying their training should be overhauled to keep pace with technological advancements.

Further, additional studies and reports note frustrations with electronic medical records (EMRs) and how technology is leading to emotional exhaustion, due to difficult-to-use interfaces that create hindrances to clinicians. Clearly, there’s friction, and efforts should be focused on creating data that is actionable at scale for clinicians, organizations, and patients.

By reducing fragmentation, working harder to bridge data silos, enhancing data sharing and connectivity, and scaling data to support patient care and treatment decisions, we can make data work for the healthcare system. We must also widen our lens on the types of data we streamline: population-level data, small data that can be pooled, research data from clinical trials, and health and lifestyle data from health apps.

Empathy and Equity in the Digital Environment:

Despite many valuing digital health, data from the Clinician of the Future report shows that 64% of clinicians worry new technologies will exacerbate health inequalities. While reports on the impact of using digital technologies to improve lives in low and middle-income regions and populations continue to mount, there is room to better integrate burgeoning technologies and health equity. The healthcare industry must not only support training efforts and infrastructure for clinicians but also patients.

Many believe empathy and the ability to understand and share the feelings of another is the basis for equality and is essential to build trust between clinicians and patients. However, 58% of clinicians believe telehealth will negatively impact their ability to demonstrate empathy with patients, despite the reported growing importance of such soft skills in the last decade. It’s essential that we explore opportunities to incorporate health equity considerations into the development of new technologies and consider equity at the outset of product development.

Just as healthcare workers who experience illness become more empathetic to their sick patients, we need to provide clinicians with tools that help them experience, understand and immerse themselves in the reality of patient experiences. Simulation technologies, for example, enable nurses in training to emotionally experience real-life patient scenarios that embody diverse patients.

Creating virtual patients that represent a diversity of backgrounds and cultures – putting themselves in the shoes of a transgender or Native American patient, for example – allows learners to practice conversation skills and empathy towards that patient population, as well as therapeutic communication. This will go a long way in making sure technology use promotes the diverse considerations of patient needs.

Technology To Empower Clinical Decisions and Patient-Centric Care:

More than half of the 3,000 clinicians surveyed predict they will make most of their clinical decisions using tools with artificial intelligence. That same number expects real-time patient analytics to be critical to personalized care.

However, with many predicting the widespread use of digital health technologies will become a more challenging burden and 58% of U.S. physicians expecting most future consultations to be remote, we need to ensure we support this move to a digital-first approach with the right systems and infrastructure to empower the future tech-savvy clinician.

If technologies are designed with clinicians and patients in mind, well-integrated, and supported by sufficient training, we will be able to reap the enormous potential technology can provide for healthcare providers.

A Digital-first Future Built on Need and Trust:

The last decade has shown us the invaluable impact technology can have on nurses, physicians, patients, and our healthcare system. This has been done by fostering greater transparency and trust in the clinician-patient relationship, providing clinicians with credible and reliable information, and giving patients greater ownership of their data.

As we continue to move forward in a tech-first era, we must remain focused on listening and acting on what our frontline healthcare workers are telling us they need. We must begin to address today the health needs of tomorrow, to drive a truly effective digital transformation of healthcare.

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