Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future

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The British National Health Service commissioned cardiologist and digital healthresearcher Eric Topol to write a report about how cutting-edge technologies like genomics, AI and robotics will change medicine and how to prepare healthcare professionals to exploit this potential.

 “We are at a unique juncture in the history of medicine, with the convergence of genomics, biosensors, the electronic patient record and smartphone apps, all superimposed on a digital infrastructure, with artificial intelligence to make sense of the overwhelming amount of data created,”Topol writes in the report’s intro.

The report examines the impact that the ten major new technologies will have on medicine, how much and when they will affect the health workforce, as illustrated in the figure below.

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Source: Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future – NHS

The report highlights the importance of having adequate expertise from healthcare professionals and physicians, who will need to be trained to understand issues around data validity and accuracy, as more rigorous clinical decision making is guided by the use of that data. The report mentions accredited continuous professional development and flexible on-going training as central to helping to assess emerging technologies.

One key industry need will be for clinical bioinformaticians and the report recommends increased support for that specific career pathway. Other educational improvements include general education about to genomics literacy and data analytics as part of core training for healthcare professionals and in undergraduate healthcare curriculum.

Regulatory considerations are also necessary to build frameworks for using genomic data in a way that protects patient confidentiality and provides evidence-based guarantees for the safety of emerging technologies.

Patient input is also key in helping to develop AI-based technologies that fit with their needs and preferences. The report recommends a “fully integrated, digitised and remotely accessible health and care record” be developed and made available over the next decade.

Repeatedly, the report underscored the necessity for preparing for a future that is rapidly approaching.

The greatest challenge is the culture shift in learning and innovation, with a willingness to embrace technology for system-wide improvement,” the report reads.

Recognizing that there will be a five-to-seven-year time lag to full adoption, there is now a window of opportunity in which to strengthen the infrastructure, upskill the workforce and catalyse the transformation. There is no time to waste.”

The report is truly interesting, and I suggest you read it. I personally believe that we must reflect, all together, about how to prepare the future of medicine. Technological innovation does not wait and, if we do not want to suffer it while remaining defensive, we must foresee the professional paths for doctors, nurses and technicians.

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