By Michelle Davey
The digital health industry is growing quickly. In 2018 alone, it received a recording-breaking $14 billion in funding. Healthcare has always been a hub for innovation and growth, but pair it with the critical clinician burnout problem, and we’re in dire need of a workplace revolution.
In fact, our clinicians aren’t just burned out. They’re our canaries in the healthcare “coal mines,” showing us that it’s time to change. They’re 15 times more likely to experience burnout than any other working professional, and that number is even higher among female clinicians and specialists like urologists and neurologists. Clinicians are also killing themselves at alarming rates.
If this doesn’t signal that it’s time for healthcare to establish a new way to work, what will?
Technology will help us transform the workplace. Here’s how.
1. Technology is bringing the human element back to healthcare.
Often, technology means removing the human element. In healthcare, we’re experiencing the opposite. With new digital health solutions, healthcare is becoming more human for both patients and clinicians.
The fact that industry adoption is keeping pace with innovation is a contributing factor in this. It’s rarely been true in the past. Why is today’s landscape different? Digital health solutions are making clinicians’ jobs and lives easier–not harder.
Today, 1 in 5 physicians use telehealth, and that number is expected to triple to more than 60% by 2022. Many indicate that burnout and a need for more work-life balance are why they plan to adopt new technology. Instead of losing autonomy and acquiring administrative tasks (a common complaint of past technological advancements, like electronic health records), clinicians are gaining a new level of career mobility that hasn’t been available to them until now.
With new innovations, patients are also gaining more access to care. Instead of technology putting a divide in the patient-doctor relationship, cost and location are falling away as barriers.
Many digital health solutions eliminate the time-intensive process of finding a provider, scheduling an appointment, taking time off work for said appointment and so on. As it becomes easier (and more affordable) for patients to see a doctor, we’re seeing a shift in focus to total healthcare vs. healthcare as emergency-only. Clinician-patient relationships are actually becoming more intimate as they work together on a more consistent basis to address health concerns like nutrition, mental health, insomnia, and more.
2. Tech is shattering healthcare’s glass ceiling, while also addressing our physician shortage.
Like many industries, it’s common for women in healthcare to face derailing their careers as they take on caregiver roles for kids or aging parents. They often take “career detours” to accommodate new life responsibilities. Studies, however, show that women aren’t just taking a break and jumping right back into their jobs. It’s difficult to regain momentum and maintain parity with male counterparts as they’re often passed up for promotions and pay increases.
This isn’t just an unfair gender bias. It’s also exasperating the industry’s critical shortage of clinicians. According to recent findings from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), it’s estimated that the United States will have a shortage of 120,000 physicians by 2030.
Digital health is changing this. With more flexible career options that allow clinicians to work when and where they want, women have the ability to tailor their schedules around other responsibilities in life. This is a win for clinicians as they take control of their career trajectories. It’s also a huge win for the healthcare system as a whole as we retain highly qualified clinicians who might otherwise leave the profession–temporarily or permanently.
3. The patient experience is becoming a consumer experience.
The fast-paced growth of the direct-to-consumer industry is requiring a new standard of quality in healthcare. As patients begin paying for more of their healthcare out-of-pocket, they want the same service they’d receive from any other consumer brand. What are they demanding? Efficiency.
New tools and technology have shown patients that digital health can be more convenient than healthcare solutions of years’ past. For example, asynchronous medical evaluations don’t require in-person office visits and are an easy solution for common health concerns and questions.
A big upside of this? As patients demand more efficiency, clinicians’ jobs will become more efficient, too. Following the example of asynchronous assessments, these tools often feature a questionnaire that mirrors a clinician-patient interaction. Instead of darting from exam room to exam room, clinicians can efficiently gather the information they need–on their own time–to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for patients.
It’s clear that healthcare is evolving quickly. The way we work needs to innovate right along with it.
We can’t continue building a new healthcare system on top of our existing workplace norms. Technology is giving us the tools we need to change the way we work for the better. Let’s take this opportunity to create a workplace that serves clinicians, patients and healthcare organizations alike.
Michelle Davey is the CEO and co-founder of Enzyme Health. The startup is changing the way healthcare works, bringing top clinicians and innovative digital health companies together.