Medical Expertise Is No Longer Enough For Today's Clinician

Friday, May 31, 2019 - 09:02


There was a time when the things that made a great doctor were a license to practice, medical expertise, staying current on new procedures and treatments, and a good bedside manner. While those are all still required capabilities, today’s clinician must have a whole new level of expertise that goes far beyond medicine.

Clinicians must now be well-versed in technologies, such as AI, data analytics, wearables and IoT, as well as numerous other complex solutions. The growing role of technology is driven by economic pressures to reduce cost while increasing quality, managing the complexity of patients with chronic diseases and the need to collaborate across providers, payers and patients within electronic health record (EHR) systems that may still be working out their kinks.

In addition to learning about digital transformation, medical students are now being taught how to better interact with patients to improve the patient experience and to understand the social factors that impact patients. Most medical schools have adapted their curriculums to include core requirements in the humanities, as well as business and leadership training. A recent studyin the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that medical students exposed to the humanities demonstrate higher levels of positive traits, such as empathy, self-efficacy and spatial reasoning.

Training that moves outside the traditional medical student curriculum is better preparing future clinicians to hone their skills in the humanities, business and computer science to better meet a changing profession that emphasizes three key areas: digital transformation, collaboration and patient experience.

Tech-Driven Physician Support

As doctors’ reimbursements continue to shrink, they need to find ways to improve performance, streamline administrative processes, reduce patient wait times and determine the most cost-effective and beneficial care plans for patients. Digital transformation is helping them achieve these goals through new software for better clinical management, IoT and wearable technology to monitor patients remotely, and AI to aid in diagnostics, to name a few

And, as the use of EHRs increases, knowing how to develop and use data analytics may be almost as important for today’s doctors as learning how to perform surgery or diagnose diseases. EHRs are built upon vast amounts of data that that can become treasure troves of patient information.

Today, clinicians have new tools that collect, analyze and crunch data to document clinical care. Clinical data warehouses are helping them organize data regarding specific diseases or quality indicators, and population health analytics are allowing them to identify predictive characteristics for populations at risk. Additionally, machine learning algorithms are supporting their decision making, helping them identify abnormalities on X-rays or the likelihood that a particular patient will be readmitted to the hospital. Knowing how to harness these technologies is imperative to their livelihood.

Greater Collaboration

Today, many adults are under the care of multiple doctors to treat specific diseases. And it’s not only doctors – they’re also under the care of non-MD clinicians, such as physician’s assistants, physical therapists or social workers. Adding to this growing ecosystem, care delivery is shifting away from traditional single offices to large health systems with multiple locations. For these reasons, greater collaboration among providers and health systems is required to address the whole care of the patient and to ensure a patient’s journey is recorded and shared.

Also, the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care payments is forcing clinicians to become more involved in the process of payments and to fully understand the role of medical payers.

For these reasons, greater collaboration among providers, health systems and payers is required. Clinicians must not only be well-versed in critical communication capabilities, but they also must encompass a clear understanding of business processes and organizational best practices.

Improved Patient Experience

The growing consumerism of healthcare is putting patients in the driver’s seat and forcing clinicians to find new ways to attract and retain them. For this reason, ramping up value-based care initiatives and improving the patient experience are top priorities for health IT leaders in 2019, according to a recent survey from Stoltenberg Consulting. The same survey found that 42% of more than 100 health IT leaders indicated that updating technology to improve the patient experience was their primary goal for 2019.

How is this being accomplished? Interactive dashboards and workflow management solutions are enabling clinicians to decrease patient wait times and keep appointments on time. Besides, bedside tablets are enabling patients to stay connected to social media sites and other entertainment, while also bringing them educational information to improve their health. And, remote monitoring devices and mobile apps are letting patients recover in the comfort of their homes, which is a big draw for elderly or physically impaired patients who have difficulty traveling to appointments.

In addition to understanding the underlying technologies enabling higher levels of patient experience, today’s clinicians need to understand how to engage patients in dialogue, make patients feel more comfortable and educate patients so that they become partners in their health journeys, instead of passive individuals who simply take doctor’s orders.

Doctors coming out of medical school today are entering an environment that is vastly different from what it was even five years ago. However, equipped with an understanding of the innovative technologies helping them better meet patient needs, the value-based models driving new approaches to patient care and the skills to better engage with patients, they’re ushering in a new generation of healthcare with a good prescription for success.

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