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There is an urgent need to attract, educate and train a generation of data-literate healthcare professionals and to up-skill the current workforce in order to fully realize the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a new report has recommended.
The report, “Transforming Healthcare with AI: The Impact on the Workforce and Organizations” follows a Europe-wide study that explored the impact of AI on healthcare practitioners, as well as the implications and obstacles for scaling the technology in healthcare organizations and systems. The study was carried out by EIT Health and McKinsey & Company.
In its findings, the report says healthcare is one of the major success stories of our times, with medical science rapidly improving, in the process of raising life expectancy around the world. But with aging populations, healthcare systems face a growing demand for their services, rising costs and a workforce that is struggling to meet the needs of its patients.
To address this situation, the report argues that there is a need to embrace AI’s transformative potential.
It said that basic digital skills, biomedical and data science, data analysis, and the fundamentals of genomics will be critical if AI and machine learning are to penetrate healthcare services.
“These subjects are rarely taught alongside traditional clinical sciences systematically. And so through no fault of their own, today’s healthcare workforce is simply not yet equipped for the adoption of AI,” Jorge Fernández García, the director of innovation at EIT Health and co-author of the report, said.
The report said most healthcare practitioners were unlikely to be displaced by AI. Instead, their professional lives will be augmented, supported and in some cases, challenged, by the introduction of AI.
In addition, the report says there is a need to define new organizational models and skill sets healthcare professionals will employ to support the adoption and scaling of AI. It also outlines the new types of talent the healthcare sector will need to attract.
AI can lead to better care outcomes and improve the productivity and efficiency of care delivery. It can also improve the day-to-day life of healthcare practitioners, letting them spend more time looking after patients and in so doing, raise staff morale and improve retention, the report says.
At present, according to the report, AI is mainly applied in diagnostics, but in the next five to ten years, healthcare professionals expect clinical decision making to top the list of applications.
“Being at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Europe, we are seeing an increasing number of tangible, impactful and exciting AI solutions created. However, we must couple the generation of new technology that can relieve some of the pressure on healthcare services with the ability for it to be integrated into care delivery. Now is the time for us to address the gaps, so that Europe does not fall behind in the application of AI,” Jorge added.
According to the report’s authors, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030 the world will be short 9.9 million doctors, nurses, and midwives, adding further urgency to address the challenge of already overburdened health systems.
“Supporting the widespread adoption and scaling of AI could help alleviate resource capacity shortfalls both now and in the future, for example, by streamlining or even eliminating administrative tasks which can occupy anything between 20 and 80 percent of a healthcare professional’s time,” a statement accompanying the report said.
The report polled 175 people on the frontline of healthcare delivery, with the authors interviewing 62 decision-makers. These surveys were complemented by macroeconomic analyses from the work of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).
Forty-four percent of the healthcare professionals who were surveyed were chosen for their interest in healthcare innovation and AI and who had never been involved in the development or deployment of an AI solution.
There are a number of reasons why AI has faced barriers in the health industry.
Among them is that patients do not trust AI; employees worry about AI is jeopardizing job security; that AI is overhyped and will not live up to expectations, and investors fear they may not see a return of investment on their AI transformation.
Despite these fears, the AI market in healthcare is expected to grow to more than $27.60 billion by 2025.
You can read more about the amazing future that AI is expected to bring to healthcare.