By Karen Taylor, Samrina Bhatti and Krissie Ferris, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions
Last week, we published the first two of our ten predictions in our report, ‘The future unmasked: Predicting the future of healthcare and life sciences in 2025’. This week, we launch predictions three and four, ‘Clinicians are empowered by new diagnostic and treatment paradigms’ and ‘The who, what and where of work re-architected’. This week’s blog provides an overview of predictions three and four.
How COVID-19 is changing healthcare professional’s ways of working
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers reorganised their staff and services and provided bespoke training to enable new ways of working. They also introduced new levels of physical and mental health and wellbeing support their staff all while attempting to deliver safe care to patients. In just a few short weeks, the pandemic dramatically accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in healthcare, as identified in our report, Digital transformation: Shaping the future of European healthcare.
The pandemic has highlighted how the virus affects specific groups of the population differently. Researchers across the world have ramped up efforts to understand and share their increased understanding of how genetic and other factors influence susceptibility to COVID-19, helping improve HCPs speed and accuracy of diagnosis and determine treatments.
In many ways, the pandemic has been a catalyst for change in healthcare. It has accelerated healthcare’s movement towards the future of health and the future of work, and has catalysed a paradigm shift in which clinicians of the future will be able to base their diagnoses and treatment decisions on predictive, preventative, personalised and participatory (4Ps) medicine. Some of the highlights from our third prediction include:
In 2025, healthcare providers use multiple sources of real-world data and analytics to predict individual’s risk of disease and tailor treatments accordingly. The education and training of clinical staff includes an understanding of medical research and the use of data and insights from genomic, digital, microbiome and virtual consultations, and use this data to inform their clinical decision making and how to interpret and convey this information effectively to their patients.
Clinicians are supported by clinical decision aids and medication management technologies to co-create proactive prevention strategies involving patients as active participants in their care decisions. Providers and payers have collaborated in designing new payment models that reward providers for health outcomes and better management of health and wellness.
Clinicians in 2025 will have access to fast, reliable hyper-personalised data driven insights derived from AI-enabled diagnostic technologies including radiology and pathology, as well as accurate point of care tests. AI-enabled point of care diagnostics and a greater understanding of the genetic components of disease, enable clinicians to make earlier and more accurate diagnoses and identify highly personalised therapies such as tailored nanoparticles, 3D bioengineering of transplantable organs and skin grafts, gene editing, and implantable microchips to control pain (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Clinicians are empowered by new diagnostic and treatment paradigms
Individual’s expectations of care quality will continue to grow, and patients will continue to behave more like consumers. Patients will continue to self-track their health and share their data with their care providers. The security and privacy of this behavioural data together with individual’s health data is protected through encryption and the use of blockchain-like technologies and its storage and use complies with rigorous, nationally agreed standards of ethics and safety. Clinicians consider patients as active participants in their own care, and work with them to co create proactive prevention strategies. Shared patient data will be used to drive new insights and determine more precise diagnoses and treatments that are most likely to benefit individual patients.
The workforce of the future
Prior to 2020, and the onset of the pandemic, the healthcare workforce globally had seen increasing workforce pressures as demand for services increased year-on-year, due in part to ageing populations and improvements in science, enabling HCPs to treat more conditions successfully. However, there has been a growing gap between demand and the size and capabilities of the workforce to meet that demand, leading to increasing workforce shortages. At the same time, there has been growing recognition of the role of technology to support staff to work more productively.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this gap and led to an unprecedented change management exercise, implemented in weeks rather than what might otherwise have taken years. One notable outcome is an accelerated adoption of digital technologies including new robotic processes to help support service delivery. Providers are using data analytics and automated dashboards to ensure staff can work more efficiently and effectively. A crucial enabler has been the expansive use of connected care solutions, such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring; technology-enabled ways of diagnosing, monitoring and treating patients. These changes have enabled us to predict a future in 2025 in which the ‘who, what and where’ of work has changed dramatically. The outcome is a ‘re-architected’ workforce augmented by technology and life long learning (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: The who, what and where of work re-architected
Who does the work?
In 2025, there is more focus on staff having cognitive, emotional and analytical skills with less need for them to undertake repetitive, administrative tasks. These changes have enriched career development opportunities and improved the attractiveness of healthcare including creating new specialisms and enabling others to enjoy expanded roles. For example, pharmacists have more responsibility for diagnosing and providing direct patient care, including providing online advice and video consultations and monitoring medication adherence remotely through smart pill dispensing devices etc. All HCPs are empowered by continuous professional development. Not only have they adopted new digital technologies, but the technologies are helping develop their skills. Professional development is based on blended learning methods including online digital training and use of virtual reality to increase expertise. The workforce has been strengthened by recruitment strategies that encourage a wide range of more diverse individuals from varied backgrounds to become HCPs.
What work is done by HCPS in 2025?
In 2025, advances in AI enabled robotics, cognitive automation and digitalisation has helped HCPs to work more productively, and repetitive tasks have largely been automated. Task shifting and task reorganisation are commonplace leading to a diverse, multi- professional, blended, workforce that is employed across permeable boundaries providing care wherever needed (for example, in the community, in people’s homes, and via mobile diagnostic clinics). Some health tasks such as administering medication, taking and documenting vital signs and conducting minor procedures are conducted by robots. Remote and robot assisted surgeries are commonplace.
Where does the work take place?
The healthcare delivery model in 2025 is integrated, adaptive, and place-based using digital first triaging and signposting patients to the most appropriate care setting. Telehealth has enabled connected care solutions and remote patient monitoring to be delivered in people’s homes. Outpatient and primary care services are delivered through virtual, and especially, video consultations. On top of receiving care wherever they are, patients will also benefit from new care outlets based in the community, from drive-through testing centres to pop up walk-in centres and vaccination clinics.
We believe that by 2025, two related shifts have taken place, HCPs have been empowered by new diagnostic and treatment paradigms and the healthcare workforce has been remodelled. The digital transformation of healthcare has been a crucial enabler to these shifts, and pivotal to shaping the future of healthcare. While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this transformation, with new ways of working enabling the health sector to leap one or two innovation cycles ahead, it was also helped by relaxing some of the constraints like data interoperability that was impeding progress. By 2025, we predict other constraints will have been overcome, such as developing the staff and patients’ digital skills, staff access to and confidence in using big data, and new regulatory paradigms. Our predictions are unashamedly positive, as we contend that being optimistic is necessary if health systems are to be able to respond effectively to the health challenges we are facing today and will face tomorrow.