Technology can transform clinical practice – here’s how

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Vitor Rocha, CEO, Philips North America


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented stress and anxiety levels among the world’s clinicians.
  • The Future Health Index 2020 global survey confirms that young health care professionals are hopeful that technology could help alleviate these issues.
  • We outline four technology design principles to restore clinician experience, which if used wisely could transform the working environment.

No one has been unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but frontline healthcare workers are certainly among those suffering most. My gratitude for their commitment, tenacity and sacrifices is immeasurable. Yet I worry so much for their personal and professional well-being.

Within six months of the pandemic’s onset, 51% of clinicians worldwide reported burnout. No one is fully prepared for a once in a century public health crisis – not even healthcare professionals. Some are serving in clinical areas far outside of their expertise and others are graduating early to bolster the workforce in hard-hit areas.

Clinicians – even our youngest generation – are experiencing tremendous levels of stress, anxiety and depression. As technology leaders, I believe we have a duty to leverage our technology expertise to bolster their clinical confidence and restore balance to their lives.

The Future Health Index 2020 report, a global survey of younger healthcare professionals commissioned by Philips, points out that clinicians have high hopes for technology and what we can achieve. I urge my leadership colleagues and fellow innovators to listen to what this next generation has to say. They are asking us for help in several key areas – and we have an obligation to listen, ease their burden and unleash their potential.

Technology design principles to transform clinician experience

1. Create any user interface in partnership with clinicians: At Philips, we partner with clinicians and technologists at the design outset to understand their range of clinical decision-making challenges. My colleagues work with them to deconstruct their workflow and identify opportunities to improve experience and capabilities. It is not hard to imagine the value that minimizing screen openings and combining encounter information on a single screen can bring. As technology leaders, it is our duty to redesign the user interface to be more intuitive for clinicians. This requires a commitment to creating an experience that goes beyond user expectations to enrich the quality of clinicians’ work lives. I urge us all to prioritize discovery and wonder in our design.

2. Hasten interoperability and clinical insight generation: I can only imagine how exhausting it must be to have to continuously recall diagnostic criteria and clinical data over long hours. Younger healthcare professionals report that incomplete digital patient data exacerbates this challenge. As one younger healthcare professional observed, “Being able to access records in an organized fashion from the comfort of my computer terminal seems like a no-brainer.” Except, it isn’t.

Almost two-thirds of younger healthcare professionals say that sharing restrictions often result in incomplete digital patient data. It should be no surprise that they cite improved interoperability between platforms as critical to ensuring that digital patient data is used to its fullest potential.

The need for digital patient data sharing increases rapidly when a pandemic requires systems to move patients to where beds are available. I often hear how transfers potentially slow treatment, risk the loss of valuable medical information and frustrate receiving team clinicians who then must start from scratch. As leaders we can invest more to enable seamless, secure sharing of medical information across facilities and networks, while safeguarding patient privacy.

3. Use telehealth to improve personal connectivity: The Future Health Index 2020 report tells us that 68% of younger healthcare professionals view a culture of collaboration as a key factor in determining where to practice. The vast majority (61% of younger doctors) cite telehealth (healthcare professional to healthcare professional, healthcare professional to patient) as a top lever for improving their clinical experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I work from home, I miss the in-person collaboration, comradery and sense of community from working side by side with peers. I also know that clinicians and caregivers feel that same isolation while living apart from family and friends. Among the most vulnerable are military caregivers who are caring for injured and chronically ill veterans isolated at home. I am passionate about ensuring connectivity for all these groups and have made investment and development in this area a priority.

The good news is that society has demonstrated how quickly it can evolve in times of crisis. I am proud of the industry’s efforts to dramatically expand telehealth capabilities and develop solutions to serve patient and clinician connectivity needs. For patients, specifically US military veterans, I am tremendously excited by work at Philips to create a scalable clinical grade environment to be placed in the community and close to home. Face-to-face, clinicians can assess veterans’ clinical and emotional health status plus use remote monitoring technologies to measure weight, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen saturation.

Through such partnerships, I am excited to see us reimagining the clinical workflow and digital infrastructure to support team-based decision making and personal connectivity. As humans, we all crave this collaboration and support, and there is nothing more powerful than the shared experience of caregiving and healing.

4. Restore clinician confidence by making hospitals smarter: COVID-19 has shown us there is ample opportunity to revise how we help clinical teams do what they do best and fuel their clinical confidence. Experts predict that healthcare data will experience a compound annual growth rate of 36% through 2025. The majority of younger healthcare professionals agree that artificial intelligence (AI) could give them the tools needed to customize care delivery (69%) and keep patients healthy (71%).

We must leverage AI to speed repetitive and pattern recognition tasks, such as image and data processing, drive big data insights and improve work-life balance. It is time to use AI to preserve clinicians’ intellectual acuity to generate diagnostic and treatment insights faster. Health and healthcare

How is the World Economic Forum bringing data-driven healthcare to life?

The application of “precision medicine” to save and improve lives relies on good-quality, easily-accessible data on everything from our DNA to lifestyle and environmental factors. The opposite to a one-size-fits-all healthcare system, it has vast, untapped potential to transform the treatment and prediction of rare diseases—and disease in general.

But there is no global governance framework for such data and no common data portal. This is a problem that contributes to the premature deaths of hundreds of millions of rare-disease patients worldwide.

The World Economic Forum’s Breaking Barriers to Health Data Governance initiative is focused on creating, testing and growing a framework to support effective and responsible access – across borders – to sensitive health data for the treatment and diagnosis of rare diseases.

The data will be shared via a “federated data system”: a decentralized approach that allows different institutions to access each other’s data without that data ever leaving the organization it originated from. This is done via an application programming interface and strikes a balance between simply pooling data (posing security concerns) and limiting access completely.

The project is a collaboration between entities in the UK (Genomics England), Australia (Australian Genomics Health Alliance), Canada (Genomics4RD), and the US (Intermountain Healthcare).

In China, we partnered with Shukun Technology to jointly develop an AI algorithm that can quickly characterize affected lung regions following a CT scan. In 30 to 120 seconds, the algorithm translates the scan into a report for the radiologist. After tens of thousands of reads, the algorithm has enabled physicians to diagnose and treat COVID-19 faster.

That is where we are investing – to build an ecosystem of secure, scalable and integrated digital solutions. By leveraging the unique capabilities of AI, we can foster faster collaboration and decision making, make better use of valuable clinical resources and free up clinicians to spend more time on patient care.

Technology to help restore well-being

Changes in healthcare won’t happen overnight and will require collaboration between health systems, government, academia and industry partners. Society has proven that together we can drive innovation quickly in the face of profound need. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the sacrifices our frontline clinicians and caregivers are making to support us during these unprecedented times.

We must listen to the candid and valuable insights they share. They have tremendous hope for what we as technology leaders can do to expand their capabilities and unleash their clinical power. We should all have a sense of wonder about what these young clinicians can achieve. But it is time to use technology to restore their emotional well-being and passion for clinical practice as well. Let’s not disappoint them.

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