The future of caring: The tech skills health care professionals need to succeed in Canada

Published May 2, 2022.

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes

In summary:
  • Increasingly health care workers are expected to have familiarity with new technologies designed to improve patient health and well-being.
  • Technology skills can help newcomer health care professionals improve career advancement and longevity.
  • Key technology requirements for health care workers in the future will include safe and effective usage of telehealth; adaptability; understanding of ethical and privacy concerns; ability to communicate about technology, and familiarity with artificial intelligence (AI).

In the future, health care professionals, from doctors to nurses to medical lab technologists, will require stronger technology skills to succeed in Canada. Their career development and longevity may depend on it.

Research by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) suggests Canadian patients, especially younger ones, increasingly want health care professionals to use technology to improve the patient experience. They also want medical professionals with the skills to apply technology to help them lead healthier lives. This makes it essential for health care workers to be comfortable adopting and using technologies.

Yet, the current state of affairs shows many health care professionals are not yet ready to embrace new technology fully. According to ICTC, only 14 per cent of family doctors use digital medical records and even fewer professionals offer access to patient medical records online. Meanwhile, more than 90 per cent of Canadians report wanting tech integrated into their health care.

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Windmill spoke with Mairead Matthews and Maya Watson, who, along with Rosina Hamoni, co-authored ICTC’s study: Digital Transformation: The Next Big Leap in Healthcare. They identified five tech requirements that will help health care professionals succeed in the future.

Mairead Matthews Maya Watson
From left: Mairead Matthews, Senior Research & Policy Analyst and Maya Watson, Research & Policy Analyst at Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), a not-for-profit national centre of expertise for the digital economy.

Show adaptability and become “super users”

There will be new and growing opportunities for health care workers who can champion the incorporation of new technologies and serve as “super users,” who function as in-house tech support and provide leadership and training during a new technology roll-out.

Strong “telehealth” skills

Telehealth is the most adopted digital service since the pandemic, followed by health information technology. A recent American report indicates that the skills to safely and effectively manage patient services and information using telehealth platforms and tools will continue to be important for health care professionals.

Understand privacy, security and ethics concerns

Technology has transformed privacy and security concerns in health care. A primary care physician will need to decide which telehealth platform to use, how to communicate with patients via email or text, and how to share confidential documents like test results or prescriptions externally. It is important for health care professionals to be able to determine and understand the privacy, security and ethics risks when using technology.

Communicate with tech workers

Health care professionals need to communicate with technology personnel about the technical aspects of technology products. Digitally skilled health care workers who can act as intermediaries between health care units and IT departments will be valuable in clarifying needs, identify bugs and inform the development of new technologies.

The ability to work with AI tools

Artificial intelligence (AI) in health care is still in an embryonic phase primarily applied in pilot programs or clinical trials. Yet, its adoption is expanding at an exponential pace. The most prominent use of AI could be diagnostic and decision support to augment clinicians in complex decision-making processes. Health care professionals will need to understand the intricacies of AI tools, including how the decisions are made and any risks related to privacy, discrimination and data biases. To promote transparency, health care professionals will also need to be able to communicate with patients about AI tools.

In their study, Matthews and Watson also suggest how health care professionals can strengthen their tech skills. This includes:

  • Seek out college and university programs or professional development courses that incorporate new technologies.
  • Prioritize health care organizations or units that integrate new technologies when indicating your preferences for clinical placements or seeking employment.
  • If you’ve already started your career, take advantage of upskilling or work opportunities that enable you to develop new digital skills. For instance, apply to be a technology champion or super user the next time your health care organization does a large scale technology roll out. You could also volunteer to sit on a technology procurement committee or apply to work as a health care technology consultant.

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