Market Insight

As software becomes more intelligent, perhaps clinicians do not need to be

December 07, 2016

Roeen Roashan Roeen Roashan Senior Analyst, Healthcare Technology
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An increasing number of people are demanding healthcare services. This increase in demand requires additional clinical staff to process the growing number of patients; however, there remains a lack of qualified personnel in the healthcare industry around the globe. Despite more people entering the healthcare field for employment, the most recent figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show a shortage of approximately 7.2 million healthcare workers, and this figure is projected to reach as high as 12.9 million by 2035, which shows that the increase in healthcare personnel entering the workforce is insufficient in meeting the surge in demand.

In response, the industry is hoping that advancements in artificial intelligence technologies and genomics will help bridge the gap by providing personalized and automated healthcare; however, such technologies are unlikely to become standard practice anytime soon and may take as long as two or three decades to become commonplace. Meanwhile, developers are bringing intelligent software that expedites diagnosis and treatment by assisting clinicians throughout the workflow. This is occurring across of all healthcare related institutions including medical imaging and remote patient monitoring.

At the annual meeting of Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), Philips Healthcare introduced Illumeo—its software for medical imaging, with features including contextual relevance, adaptive intelligence and more. The idea is to constantly guide the user of the software, e.g. a radiologist, to be cognizant of everything relevant to the delivery of care. Illumeo provides meaningful patient data to the clinician when appropriate, tailors the user experience to enable only relevant tools, and seamlessly integrates guidelines around best practices to achieve high-quality image analysis. Intelligent and assistive software is also entering the remote patient monitoring market, with solutions such as Sentrian’s Remote Patient Intelligence (RPI), which applies a cloud-based, clinician-directed machine learning engine to monitor patients as an alternative to on-site nurses.

Currently, intelligent software is assisting clinicians’ efficiency. These solutions are borderline autonomous – in other words, the analytics provided by these solutions do not necessarily require an experienced or trained clinician to reach consensus on, for example, medical images, lab tests, screenings and more. Anyone capable of using a computer could use the software with moderate training. This opens up the possibility of having a healthcare workforce with less credentials or certifications yet that is capable of providing high-quality care, i.e. acting as a transitional model that could lower the shortage of clinicians until a fully autonomous healthcare model is implemented in the coming decades. In his book The Industries of the Future, Alec Ross discusses the scenario of outsourcing certain medical tasks, including image diagnostics and remote monitoring, outside physical borders to attend to the growing demand for healthcare. Current solutions such as Philips’ Illumeo and Sentrian’s RPI are not able to operationally support such an investment, but points in that direction as future versions will increasingly depend less on users’ clinical knowledge. There may be negative implications of having select members of a workforce with fewer credentials, but the issue are not people-related, but more on system integrity.  

Does the above trend imply the complete independence of healthcare from highly educated and experienced clinicians in the future? This is unlikely, but clinicians will primarily be focused on the acute environment, having a consultative function both at an enterprise level and patient level, and playing an important part in the research for advancing the medical field.

For questions or inquiries, please contact Roeen Roashan, Roeen.Roashan@ihsmarkit.com.

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Healthcare Technology
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