Will health professionals be trained data scientists in the future?

Big data is changing the healthcare industry forever, and health professionals can no longer ignore the impact it is set to have on their roles

21Mar

The healthcare industry is undergoing a rapid series of changes thanks to the introduction of digital technology into hospitals, ICUs and care facilities across the nation. With doctors and nurses everywhere worried about automation and the changing ways that technology is impacting the human body, it's understandable that few of them have been paying sufficient attention to the role data will play in their near-futures.

Health professionals can't afford to ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Will these professionals be trained data scientists in the future? It's increasingly appearing necessary for healthcare specialists to become the new data gurus to fulfil their jobs – here's why.

Big data is already disrupting the industry

One of the reasons you can be confident that health professionals will need to become trained data scientists in the future is that big data is already disrupting the industry to an unprecedented extent. Developments in machine learning techniques (ML) and the ability of programs to parse awe-inspiring sums of data have rendered modern hospitals into highly complex, technical organs that resemble computers more than anything else.

HCA, the nation's largest hospital operation, is already finding itself beset by the need to redesign modern healthcare facilities with the big data revolution in mind. Electronic medical records systems are being implemented across the board, for instance, with new ways for doctors and nurses to access patient histories and communicate with one another regarding proposed remedies. As the nation's largest hospital provider continues to adapt to big data, smaller fish in the healthcare market will follow in its wake and take similar steps to digitize their operations.

Big data and biology go hand in hand

While it may seem jarring to some health professionals that they'll need to become trained data scientists in the future, it's a simple matter of fact that big data and biology go hand in hand. Major tech companies and financial behemoths like Amazon and JPMorgan Chase are forming joint-ventures to reduce the costs of healthcare, and they're largely relying on combining their huge data sets in order to achieve this gargantuan (yet sorely needed) accomplishment. It's becoming widely recognized that tech's next big wave is in the healthcare industry, where nurses and doctors need the assistant of clever machines in order to diagnoses illnesses and soothe the pain of patients.

What does this mean for current healthcare professionals uncertain of their futures? The good news is that you don't have to be a wizard at mathematics to become tech-savvy; as a matter of fact, merely exposing yourself to greater levels of technology is useful way to prepare yourself for the data-driven industry that's barreling down the line towards you. Young doctors, nurses and medical students should become eager to learn about the myriad of ways in which data is being harnessed to save human lives and avoid the high cost of medical malpractice claims if they want to remain relevant and successful in their industry for long.

Big data can be used to predict health defects long before they become known to healthcare professionals, for instance, ushering in a new era of diagnostic excellency. Healthcare managers will also become familiar with using data-driven programs to better monitor healthcare expenses and manage their staffer's schedules. As any healthcare professional can tell you, the hectic nature of scheduling is in dire need of retrofitting, and new digital technology could be what's needed.

How to grapple with change

Effectively grappling with the ongoing changes in the healthcare industry isn't going to be easy, as young professionals will need to be prepared to make sacrifices and learn complex new skills in order to remain at the top of their career fields. Tech can threaten to transform doctors into clerical workers, for instance, with many modern healthcare professionals reporting that digital technology has reduced their role in diagnostics and stands to ruin the way the communicate with patients and their staffers.

Nonetheless, technological development isn't something that can be seriously stymied, meaning you need to come to terms with the changing nature of the modern world instead of trying to get it to hold still and stay the same. On the road to becoming trained data scientists who can wisely leverage insights derived from huge sums of patient data, health professionals must also take care that they don't become dispassionate machines themselves, incapable of seeing the body behind the big data.

As always, healthcare professionals will need to work on their communication skills and become comfortable dealing with people in the flesh – literally. This is because digital technology will take on renewed prominence in the healthcare sector, but human capital will always be needed, especially since patients expect a friendly face at their bedside instead of a cold, unfeeling robot. As long as people need healthcare, they'll want other people around to provide it to them, so don't get too worked up about automation and job loss from forthcoming digital changes. 

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