Healthcare workforce 'not equipped' for the adoption of AI, according to report

EIT Health and McKinsey & Company research highlights the need for new organisational models and skillsets.
By Tammy Lovell
04:41 am
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A report from EIT Health and McKinsey & Company has called for a generation of data literate healthcare professionals to be educated and trained in order to realise the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe.

Researchers carried out 62 interviews with public and private sector decision-makers and thought leaders across Europe, North America and Asia between December 2019 and January 2020. They also conducted a survey of 175 healthcare professionals, health investors, AI startup founders and other executives during the same period.

The resulting report, Transforming healthcare with AI: The impact on the workforce and organisations emphasises the need to define new organisational models and skillsets, including basic digital skills, biomedical and data science, data analysis, and the fundamentals of genomics.

Jorge Fernández García, director of innovation at EIT Health and report co-author, said that because these subjects are rarely taught alongside traditional clinical sciences “today’s healthcare workforce is simply not yet equipped for the adoption of AI”.

Better involvement of healthcare professionals in the early stages of AI development was also identified as a key need. Currently 44% of those surveyed, chosen for their interest in healthcare innovation and AI, had never been involved in the development or deployment of an AI solution.

WHY IT MATTERS

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2030 the world will be short of 9.9 million doctors, nurses and midwives. Supporting the widespread adoption and scaling of AI could potentially help alleviate resource capacity shortfalls, by streamlining or even eliminating administrative tasks which occupy healthcare professionals’ time.

At present, diagnostics is the main application of AI within healthcare, but, in the next five to 10 years, healthcare professionals expect clinical decision making to top the list of applications, according to the survey.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

The need to recruit the right talent for healthcare AI implementations, was also recently raised by Jason Jones, chief data scientist officer at Health Catalyst. He told Healthcare IT News that the healthcare sector may struggle to compete with the tech sector in attracting data scientists and suggested that organisations consider their needs and assets.

ON THE RECORD

García said: “Being at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Europe, we’re seeing an increasing number of tangible, impactful and exciting AI solutions created. However, we must couple the generation of new technology that can relieve some of the pressure on healthcare services, with the ability for it to be integrated into care delivery. Now is the time for us to address the gaps, so that Europe does not fall behind in the application of AI.”

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