Healthcare is apparently the largest employer in the US in 2018. This wouldn’t necessarily be bad in and of itself, because healthcare is very local and services-oriented, and benefits from a human touch. However, there’s been an explosion in administrative functions, while we have a shortage in physicians and nurses — which at the current rate is likely to only get worse.
This has to change.
We need less back-office people and more front-line caregivers. I see several possible catalysts that could tilt the labor force in that direction in the future.
As the physician shortage worsens, AI has the potential to play a big role by empowering non-physicians. It could provide people with certain skills once unique to doctors. We discussed this idea when the FDA approved a diabetic retinopathy diagnostic tool that didn’t require a clinician. This change would enable more people to play a role in healthcare.
Community members in places you already visit regularly could play a role in your healthcare (e.g. your local barber).
While researching Google’s healthcare strategy, I came across a graphic of how its Streams app can detect acute kidney injury. By structuring the data and setting specific rules, several humans are removed from the equation, and an alert is sent much faster. Qventus also recently raised $30M to improve in-hospital workflows that might typically require a human.
Technology that makes it easier to take notes (e.g. voice dictation) and processes claims faster can reduce the need for people in the documentation and billing process. This will also become faster once there’s an easy to access place to access structured patient data such as Apple’s personal health record or even a blockchain-based health record system.
By removing a trained health expert from the equation, more responsibility would be placed on the patients. We see this with medical-grade wearables + remote monitoring instruments like ambulatory blood pressure cuffs, which don’t require a nurse or PA at all. This could extend further — at the HLTH conference, I tried out this blood collection device from Seventh Sense Biosystems that allowed me to easily draw my blood myself.
New jobs might exist in healthcare tomorrow. We’ll be talking about this in our upcoming flash briefing on Healthcare in 2025.
Hopefully in the near future we’ll see a slowdown in the growth of back-office jobs and more front-line caregivers.
AI is going to play a big role in what the healthcare labor force of tomorrow looks like. For expert intelligence clients we mapped out which areas of healthcare is seeing the most AI activity via a heatmap.