A window into doctors’ future

Elsevier Health’s first Clinician of the Future global report reveals current pain points, predictions for the future and how the industry can come together to address gaps. Leslie Berry reports.

Thousands of doctors and nurses from across the globe have revealed what is needed to fill gaps and future-proof today’s healthcare system.

Their views are recorded in new research from Elsevier Health called the Clinician of the Future report, conducted in partnership with Ipsos.

It uncovers just how undervalued doctors and nurses feel and their desire for urgent support such as more skills training.

Training needs are highlighted especially in:

 The effective use of health data and technology;

 Preserving the patient-doctor relationship in a changing digital world; 

 Recruiting more healthcare professionals into the field. 

Their voices have been elevated in this first global, multiphase research report to not only understand where the healthcare system is following the Covid-19 pandemic, but where it needs to be in ten years to ensure a future that both providers and patients deserve. 

Supporting doctors

Elsevier Health president Jan Herzhoff says: ‘Doctors and nurses play a vital role in the health and well-being of our society. Ensuring they are being heard will enable them to get the support they need to deliver better patient care in these difficult times. 

‘We must start to shift the conversation away from discussing today’s healthcare problems to delivering solutions that will help improve patient outcomes. 

‘In our research, they have been clear about the areas they need support; we must act now to protect, equip and inspire the clinician of the future.’

There has never been a greater need for lifting the voices of healthcare professionals. The global study found 71% of doctors and 68% of nurses believe their jobs have changed considerably in the past decade, with many saying their jobs have got worse. 

One-in-three clinicians are considering leaving their current role by 2024, with as many as half of this group in some countries leaving healthcare for good. 

This comes on top of the existing global healthcare workforce shortage, where clinicians continue to experience severe levels of fatigue and burnout since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. 

Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer at the Healthcare Inform­ation and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), called it a comprehensive report that provides an opportunity for the industry to listen – and act – on the pivotal guidance given by those on the front lines. 

What today’s clinicians want for the clinician of the future 

The report includes a quantitative global survey, qualitative interviews and round-table discussions with nearly 3,000 doctors and nurses around the world.

Its data helps shed light on the challenges impacting the profession today and predictions on what healthcare will look like in the next ten years, according to those providing critical patient care. 

To ensure a positive shift moving into the future, and to fill current gaps, clinicians highlight the following priority areas for greater support:  

Enhancing health technology skills

Clinicians predict that, over the next ten years, ‘technology literacy’ will become their most valuable capability, ranking higher than ‘clinical knowledge’. 

In fact, 56% of clinicians predict they will base most of their clinical decisions using tools that utilise artificial intelligence. 

However, 69% report being overwhelmed with the current volume of data and the same percentage predict the widespread use of digital health technologies to become an even more challenging burden in the future. 

As a result, 83% believe training needs to be overhauled so they can keep pace with technological advancements.

A greater focus on the patient-provider relationship

Clinicians predict a blended approach to healthcare, with 63% saying most consultations between clinicians and patients will be remote and 49% saying most healthcare will be provided in a patient’s home instead of in a healthcare setting. 

While clinicians may save time and see more patients thanks to telehealth, more than half believe telehealth will negatively impact their ability to demonstrate empathy with patients they no longer see in person. 

As a result, clinicians are calling for guidance on when to use telehealth and how to transfer soft skills like empathy to the computer screen.

An expanded healthcare workforce 

Clinicians are concerned about a global healthcare workforce shortage, with 74% predicting there will be a shortage of nurses and 68% predicting a shortage of doctors in ten years’ time. 

This may be why global clinicians say a top support priority is increasing the number of healthcare workers in the coming decade. 

Clinicians require the support of larger, better equipped teams and expanded multidisciplinary healthcare teams, such as data analysts, data security experts and scientists, as well as clinicians themselves. 

Marion Broome, professor of nursing at the School of Nursing, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, observes: ‘While we know that many nurses are leaving the profession due to burnout, we also know that the pandemic has inspired others to enter the field because of a strong desire for purposeful work. 

‘We must embrace this next wave of healthcare professionals and ensure we set them up for success. Our future as a society depends on it.’ 

Looking to the future

Now Elsevier Health says its research findings will be used in initiatives to try and address the gaps highlighted:

 Providing an annual Elsevier Health Clinician of the Future pulse survey to ensure these voices continue to be front and centre;

 Convening a global coalition of healthcare leaders and institutions to explore solutions at the medical school and clinical practice level;

 Exploring the issue of patient empathy in partnership with its research journals and subject matter experts.

Thomas (Tate) Erlinger, the company’s vice-president Clinical Analytics, says: ‘Ultimately, we asked clinicians for what they need and now it’s our responsibility as a healthcare industry to act.

‘Now is the time for bold thinking to serve providers and patients today and tomorrow. We need to find ways to give clinicians the enhanced skills and resources they need to better support and care for patients in the future. 

‘And we need to fill in gaps today to stop the drain on healthcare workers to ensure a strong system in the next decade and beyond.’ 

To read a copy of the report, go to www.elsevier.com/connect/clinician-of-the-future