The nature of work across almost every industry is being disrupted by rapidly evolving digital technology – driving increased automation, affecting the proximity of where work is performed, and giving rise to new and open talent models. According to a recent study, approximately 47% of jobs could be automated in the next twenty years.1 With so much change in the air, many health care systems are understandably apprehensive about how to define, pursue, and leverage the future of work.
Many leaders of health care provider organizations anticipate that the scale and pace of change will overwhelm their workforce and compound current talent issues, such as a shortage of nurses and a burned-out physician population. What these executives should give equal consideration to is the tremendous opportunity that shifting the nature of work through emerging technology represents.
How open are health care leaders to embracing the future of work? According to Deloitte research, 100% of providers surveyed say they plan to make significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technologies in the next three to five years. 33% say they consider it a priority to develop the advanced skills in employees so they can work side-by-side with robots. However, despite a clear focus on emergent technologies, none of the providers surveyed responded that they have made significant progress in adopting these technologies.
Deloitte hosted a Future of Work in Nursing Greenhouse lab in January 2018, which included technology leaders and nursing executives from across the country. During this highly experiential and immersive session called “The Exponential Nurse”, participants reimagined how the nursing workflow could enhance the patient and family experience, improve clinical outcomes, and return joy to the nurse's work. This kind of ideation is facilitated by first assessing the current workplace, work, and workforce operations, and then questioning how talent models can be improved by emerging technology using the following guidelines:
- Physical proximity: Does the physician, nurse, or other caregiver need to be present at the site of service delivery? Can the patient receive care virtually?
- Automation level: How much of the work can be delivered through robotics, cognitive intelligence, AI, or other technologies? What skill-based parts of the job must remain in human hands? How can humans and robots work together to optimize performance and human fulfilment?
- Talent category: Is this a full-time, in-house job? To what extent can different categories of staff–contractors, off-balance-sheet (e.g., external consultants), or crowdsourcing–accomplish this?
One litmus test of a valuable solution is the Quadruple Aim, i.e. does it enhance the patient experience, improve health of populations, reduce per capita cost, and cultivate clinician and employee engagement? Innovations that spring from this line of inquiry also support the organization's mission-critical activities.
In addition to easing current workforce concerns, the future of work represents a significant opportunity to improve health care delivery. For instance, health systems are beginning to take advantage of telemedicine. Changing the proximity of where care is provided helps clinicians to see more patients with more regularity.
As each provider organization maps out its own workforce strategy, it needs to adopt an exponential mindset; each part of the workforce will evolve not along a single linear path, but in response to a collection of forces. Rather than fearing this wave of change, providers should proactively seek out opportunities for clinicians and patients to benefit from automation and new technologies, augment talent models, and expand points of access to care.
- World Development Report 2016, World Bank Group