It has been a bruising two years for the global healthcare industry. Doctors and nurses continue to face grueling working conditions driven by staff shortages and a lack of resources.
Many healthcare providers refer to the job as a “calling”, but the pandemic has changed the way many people think about the industry. Instead of working until the age of retirement, many providers are quitting the field in search of higher-paying work that doesn’t take up as much of their time. Nurses and doctors say the job is taking a toll on their physical and mental health, and that quitting is the only way to survive.
A new report from Elsevier Health shows just how much the industry has changed since the pandemic began exactly two years ago. Thousands of providers from all over the world participated in the study to share their thoughts on how countries can future-proof their healthcare systems. If the world doesn’t make these changes, three fourths of all clinicians in the world could leave the profession by 2025.
Elsevier Health, a provider of information solutions for science, health, and technology professionals, has just released its first “Clinician of the Future” report. It details existing gaps in the system and how they can be filled to stave off a mass exodus of workers.
“As a practicing doctor, I am acutely aware of the struggles today’s clinicians face in their efforts to care for patients.” Said Dr. Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer at Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). “This comprehensive report from Elsevier Health provides an opportunity for the industry to listen—and act—on the pivotal guidance given by those on the frontlines. I commend this important initiative and look forward to next steps in supporting our doctors and nurses.”
The participating nurses and doctors were asked whether their feelings about the industry have changed over the last ten years.
According to the results, 71% of doctors and 68% of nurses believe their jobs have changed considerably in the past 10 years, with many saying their jobs have gotten worse.
One in three clinicians said they are considering leaving their current role by 2024. In some countries, as many as half of all providers said they could leave the profession.
Fifty-six percent of all clinicians said patients have become more empowered to manage their own conditions over the last decade and many said clinicians will become more like partners to their patients as they help them make decisions about their health.
Even though more patients are using technology to access their records and manage their health, 82% of clinicians said that soft skills, such as listening and being empathetic, have become increasingly important among clinicians in the last decade.
Many clinicians also said they don’t have enough time to do the job. Just 51% of clinicians said the amount of time they are able to spend with patients is sufficient to give them good care.
“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,” said Jan Herzhoff, president at Elsevier Health. “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.”
The doctors and nurses also outlined several ways the industry can improve retention rates for staff, so fewer providers end up leaving the profession in the years to come.
Improving Health Technology
Many clinicians said that “technology literacy” will become one of the most important assets for providers over the next ten years. Over half (56%) of clinicians said they will likely base most of their clinical decisions using tools that utilize artificial intelligence.
But technology can present challenges as well. Sixty-nine percent report being overwhelmed with the current volume of data and 69% predict the widespread use of digital health technologies to become an even more challenging burden in the future.
To overcome these issues, 83% believe training needs to be overhauled so they can keep pace with technological advancements.
Focusing on the Provider-Patient Relationship
Clinicians predict that the nature of this relationship is bound to change over the years, 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.
However, many providers said telehealth will likely make it harder for them to see their patients in person. They are calling for more guidance and regulations on when this technology should be used instead of in-person care. They also want more training on how to utilize soft skills during remote care.
Expanding the Healthcare Workforce
Most clinicians said they are concerned about growing staff shortages in the industry largely due to a lack of talent and rising demand for healthcare services. Seventy-four percent said there will be a shortage of nurses and 68% predicted a shortage of doctors in 10 years’ time. They want to see an expanding workforce over the next ten years to help fill in the gaps.
“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,” said Marion Broome, Ruby F. Wilson professor of nursing at Duke University’s School of Nursing. “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.”
The participants advocated for larger, more experienced healthcare providers with multi-disciplinary experience as well as more data analysts, security experts, and scientists.
“Ultimately, we asked clinicians for what they need, and now it’s our responsibility as a healthcare industry to act,” said Dr. Thomas Erlinger, vice president of clinical analytics at Elsevier Health. “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 the gaps today, to stop the drain on healthcare workers to ensure a strong system in the next decade and beyond.”