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Unless We Future-Proof Healthcare, Study Shows That By 2025, 75% Of Healthcare Workers Will Leave

By Jack Kelly and published by

We believe doctors and healthcare professionals aren't supposed to leave medicine, as it's a calling and profession for life. There are challenges, but the satisfaction of helping others in need, along with the social status and compensation, made healthcare workers proud. However, times have changed. Their existing burnout was heightened during the pandemic.

Healthcare workers thought that vaccines would ease the traumas endured in initial surges. Instead, they saw waves of patients. There was one variant wave after another. Many Covid-19 patients became difficult to deal with. There were heated exchanges with the unvaccinated. Hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices saw a steady stream of people who delayed medical visits during the pandemic and are now suffering the consequences. To add to the stress, there were reports of assaults on nurses and other healthcare workers. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, many felt the need to leave.

To gain a sense of the healthcare field and what the future may look like, Elsevier Health, a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions and deliver better care, conducted its first “Clinician of the Future” global report. This study reveals current pain points, predictions for the future and how the industry can come together to address gaps.

Dr. Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer at Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), said, “As a practicing doctor, I am acutely aware of the struggles today’s clinicians face in their efforts to care for patients.” Alessi continued, “This comprehensive report from Elsevier Health provides an opportunity for the industry to listen—and act—on the pivotal guidance given by those on the frontlines. I commend this important initiative and look forward to next steps in supporting our doctors and nurses.”

In the new report from Elsevier Health, published two years after the Covid-19 pandemic began, thousands of doctors and nurses from across the globe revealed what is needed to fill gaps and future-proof today’s healthcare system. The comprehensive “Clinician of the Future” report was conducted in partnership with Ipsos and uncovered how undervalued doctors and nurses feel, as well as their call for urgent support, such as more skills training—especially in the effective use of health data and technology—preserving the patient-doctor relationship in a changing digital world and recruiting more healthcare professionals into the field. The multiphase research report not only understands where the healthcare system is following the Covid-19 pandemic, but where it needs to be in 10 years to ensure a future that both providers and patients deserve.

Jan Herzhoff, president at Elsevier Health, said, “Doctors and nurses play a vital role in the health and well-being of our society. Ensuring they are being heard will enable them to get the support they need to deliver better patient care in these difficult times.” Herzhoff added, “We must start to shift the conversation away from discussing today’s healthcare problems to delivering solutions that will help improve patient outcomes. In our research, they have been clear about the areas they need support; we must act now to protect, equip and inspire the clinician of the future.”

Report Highlights

  • There has never been a greater need for lifting the voices of healthcare professionals. The global study found 71% of doctors and 68% of nurses believe their jobs have changed considerably in the past 10 years, with many saying their jobs have gotten worse.

  • One in three clinicians are considering leaving their current role by 2024 with as much as half of this group in some countries leaving healthcare for good. This comes on top of the existing global healthcare workforce shortage, where clinicians continue to experience severe levels of fatigue and burnout since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

The “Clinician of the Future” report includes a quantitative global survey, qualitative interviews and roundtable discussions with nearly 3,000 practicing doctors and nurses around the world. The data helps shed light on the challenges impacting the profession today and predictions on what healthcare will look like in the next 10 years, according to those providing critical patient care.

According to the survey, more than half of clinicians around the world (56%) agreed patients have become more empowered to manage their own conditions over the last decade. Despite the increase in the use of technology and remote consulting, 82% of clinicians agreed that soft skills, such as listening and being empathetic, have become increasingly important among clinicians in the last decade. Clinicians also shared that they are pressed for time. Only half (51%) of clinicians agreed the amount of time they are able to spend with patients is sufficient to give them good care.

To ensure a positive shift moving into the future and to fill current gaps, clinicians highlight the following priority areas for greater support:

  • Enhancing health technology skills: Clinicians predict that over the next 10 years “technology literacy” will become their most valuable capability, ranking higher than “clinical knowledge.” In fact, 56% of clinicians predict they will base most of their clinical decisions using tools that utilize artificial intelligence. However, 69% report being overwhelmed with the current volume of data and 69% predict the widespread use of digital health technologies to become an even more challenging burden in the future. As a result, 83% believe training needs to be overhauled so they can keep pace with technological advancements.

  • A greater focus on the patient-provider relationship: Clinicians predict a blended approach to healthcare with 63% saying most consultations between clinicians and patients will be remote and 49% saying most healthcare will be provided in a patient’s home instead of in a healthcare setting. While clinicians may save time and see more patients, thanks to telehealth, more than half of clinicians believe telehealth will negatively impact their ability to demonstrate empathy with patients they no longer see in person. As a result, clinicians are calling for guidance on when to use telehealth and how to transfer soft skills like empathy to the computer screen.

  • An expanded healthcare workforce: Clinicians are concerned about a global healthcare workforce shortage, with 74% predicting there will be a shortage of nurses and 68% predicting a shortage of doctors in 10 years’ time. This may be why global clinicians say a top support priority is increasing the number of healthcare workers in the coming decade. Clinicians require the support of larger, better-equipped teams and expanded multidisciplinary healthcare teams, such as data analysts, data security experts and scientists, as well as clinicians themselves.

“While we know that many nurses are leaving the profession due to burnout, we also know that the pandemic has inspired others to enter the field because of a strong desire for purposeful work,” said Marion Broome, Ruby F. Wilson professor of nursing at Duke University’s School of Nursing. “We must embrace this next wave of healthcare professionals and ensure we set them up for success. Our future as a society depends on it.”

Looking To The Future

Findings from this research will be leveraged to provide strategic insights and solutions for physicians, nurses, educators, healthcare administrators and policymakers, as Elsevier Health establishes initiatives designed to address the gaps highlighted:

  • Providing an annual Elsevier Health “Clinician of the Future” pulse survey to ensure these voices continue to be front and center

  • Convening a Global Coalition of healthcare leaders and institutions to explore solutions at the medical school and clinical practice level

  • Exploring the issue of patient empathy in partnership with our trusted research journals and subject matter experts

“Ultimately, we asked clinicians for what they need, and now it’s our responsibility as a healthcare industry to act,” said Dr. Thomas “Tate” Erlinger, vice president of clinical analytics at Elsevier Health. “Now is the time for bold thinking—to serve providers and patients today and tomorrow. We need to find ways to give clinicians the enhanced skills and resources they need to better support and care for patients in the future. And we need to fill in gaps today, to stop the drain on healthcare workers to ensure a strong system in the next decade and beyond.”

Drivers Of Change

  • More informed patients: In the survey, 86% of clinicians agreed the rise of patients informed about their health conditions is driving healthcare change.

  • Patient-Consumers: 90% of clinicians who responded to the survey agreed that quality measures, including patient satisfaction, have driven change in healthcare in the last decade

  • The Decade Ahead: Key findings from the “Clinician of the Future” study show 62% of clinicians agreed the role of the clinician will change to be more of a partnership with the patient in 10 years’ time.

  • 51% of clinicians agreed telehealth will negatively impact their ability to demonstrate empathy with patients.

  • 56% agreed patients will be more empowered to take care of their own health.

  • 77% of clinicians expect real-time patient analytics to be critical to personalized care in the future.

  • 43% expect every individual will have their genome sequenced to support illness prevention.

The Clinician Of The Future

  • Working in partnership with their patients, the clinician of the future is adept at utilizing health data and advanced clinical insights to make informed decisions.

  • They communicate with patients in a variety of ways, from limited virtual check-ins to in-person consultations at patients’ homes. Clinicians’ patients have much greater control over their own medical records and health data. To keep up with the latest developments, the clinician of the future has more dedicated time set aside to learn and embrace new digital approaches.

Dr. Leo Anthony Celi, clinical research director and principal research scientist for the Laboratory of Computational Physiology (LCP) at MIT and attending physician specialist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said about his reasons for entering the medical field, “My mother was a nurse, and she had a profound effect on my decision to enter the medical field. Medicine is also considered a very prestigious career choice in the Philippines [where I grew up] and only priesthood beats the medical profession when it comes to what Filipino parents dream about their sons growing up to be.” Celi added, “The most rewarding aspect of being a clinician scientist, is having the tremendous opportunity to learn something new and interesting throughout life.”

Erlinger, a volunteer physician in Austin, said, “I went into medicine basically to help people. As simplistic as that sounds, it was true for me. I enjoy and value the relationship experience and enjoy helping people when I can. I chose to support a volunteer clinic specifically for this reason. I liked the idea of forming longer-term relationships with patients and their families.”

He offered, “I see patients who are considered the ‘working poor,’ or the 80+% of uninsured Americans who have one or more jobs, but still cannot afford health insurance. Most uninsured people work hard, but don’t have jobs that offer health insurance, which is a scary situation for individuals and their families. I enjoy helping them feel more confident in managing their chronic diseases and controlling their conditions so they can have a better quality of life. It’s rewarding and I get to work with like-minded professionals who want to give back to their communities.”


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