The future of digital healthcare

Digitalisation is transforming how healthcare is delivered, fuelling demand for new and specialised skills.

Team of Bio scientists in lab analysing samples

Technological changes are calling for different health workers who can manage artificial intelligence (AI)-generated electronic records and analyse remote monitoring device data. It also requires an increase in IT professionals in healthcare settings, meaning existing medical and scientific professionals will need to upskill in line with these changes.

SThree spoke to Rainer Sibbel, Chair for International Health Management at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, about the future of digital healthcare.

Blockchain’s future in healthcare

He says organisations must equip healthcare professionals with the skills to manage large volumes of data because of the implementation of digital health records.

While AI could automate some of this data analysis, he says, there is still a need for the human touch. “We need experts who understand how these [AI] machines work, how the results are created, and whether they make sense from a medical or scientific point of view,” says Sibbel. “In terms of decision-making and taking responsibility, humans are vital.”

Handling large volumes of human data has ethical and security challenges. Sibbel explains there is a strong suspicion among the public around how personal data is used, underlining the need for checks and balances. One potential solution is the increased use of blockchain technology to give patients more control of their data while improving accuracy and lowering costs for healthcare providers.

“In terms of decision-making and taking responsibility, humans are vital.”

This has increased the demand for highly-skilled specialists who understand data science, big data and cybersecurity. For example, technology professionals are now in high demand in the pharmaceutical industry to help with clinical trial data and within health insurance companies to support claims processing, says Sibbel.

“In these areas, it absolutely makes sense that hiring is increasing,” he adds, based on his own experience. “Electronic health records will be the data pool of the future. The question is how to create a comprehensive record on the one hand and how to keep the security level high. Blockchain is one of the most promising technical answers to that dilemma.”

Pandemic-driven change

SThree also spoke to Dr Adam Dubis, Associate Professor at the UCL Global Business School for Health in London, who says the development of digital health is driving human resources changes.

“Covid-19 has accelerated the use of digital health technology and driven the acknowledgement that we need more technical skills like computing, engineering and data analytics to drive innovation,” Dr Dubis says.

Doctors and nurses [and] healthcare organisations also need health information technicians, clinical analysts, software engineers and, at the top level, chief information officers.

The application of these non-traditional healthcare skill sets has enabled the sharing of medical records at the regional, national and international levels to inform and facilitate epidemiological research and support healthcare delivery. At the same time, mobile applications that track people’s locations and trace contacts led to more effective control of disease transmission.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for high-end technical people,” Dubis says. In addition to doctors and nurses, healthcare organisations also need health information technicians, clinical analysts, software engineers and, at the top level, chief information officers.

Even for the more traditional roles in healthcare, practitioners will need to acquire new skills, as technology drives changes in hospital wards, clinics and operating rooms. “Within the medical profession, COVID-19 highlighted the need to be comfortable with digital tools,” says Dubis.

The need for tech fluency

Clinicians need to be fluent in the virtual software that connects doctors and patients, which can relieve pressure on healthcare providers and make care more accessible. “The healthcare profession is reeling from the effects of a rapid shift in how people work,” Dubis says. “As a medical professional, it’s not enough to say you are familiar with Excel or PowerPoint. We’re seeing new requirements being added to job descriptions.”


In addition, Dubis says that the education and training of healthcare professionals will need to change. “There’s a lot of work going into figuring out the digital skills that people need to improve outcomes for patients.”

“As a medical professional, it’s not enough to say you are familiar with Excel or PowerPoint. We’re seeing new requirements being added to job descriptions.”

At the senior level, health administrators must develop their project management skills, Sibbel says. “Often, it’s the physicians who are responsible for introducing new technologies, but they have no project management background to do that in a structured way. That is one of the managerial burdens of digitisation – nobody doubts the potential, but a lot of managers are not capable of implementing it effectively.” The most important takeaway from the digital skills revolution, he says, is that training will be vital.

Tech talent is on the agenda

This increase of big data and a new penchant for home-based care, remote-health monitoring wearables, and marked interest in one’s data privacy is calling for IT experts in healthcare. Tech specialists who develop and manage software and data are becoming the norm in a healthcare team.

This is driving changes in talent management strategies – notably an increase in compensation and a narrowing of the gap between pay in the private healthcare and technology sectors

Naturally, this is driving changes in talent management strategies – notably an increase in compensation and a narrowing of the gap between pay in the private healthcare and technology sectors, says Dubis. “There is greater parity between the two sectors. People don’t need to trade off doing good against being rewarded.”

For employers, this means looking beyond their traditional talent pools to bring in tech experts who have traditionally never worked in healthcare. As for specialists, 36% globally now consider moving to a different industry than the one they’re working for to search for a new role, as found in our How the STEM World Works research. Together, the intent to find synergy between the unexpected could take healthcare to new digital heights.

Delve further into How the STEM World Works to discover what highly-sought after STEM talent wants from future careers, and how employers can attract said talent.

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