3 ways to prepare for the AI takeover in healthcare

As healthcare continues to shift toward automation and AI, a new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program suggests a need for changes in both education and workplace culture for individuals to cope with the transition. 

Though many experts believe humans and healthcare will be “better off” because of AI and related technologies, it’s important to note there may be an impact on the workforce. 

“Automation, forever a major determinant of the nature and availability of work, will continue to reshape the work people do and the opportunities they are afforded,” the report read. “Whether this should be alarming or only cause for slight anxiety depends.”

And while increased risk of automation will be most prevalent among individuals who perform routine, predictable physical and cognitive tasks, healthcare is not out of the woods. Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations have task automation potential––where current occupation tasks could be disrupted by automation––of 33 percent and healthcare support occupations have 40 percent task automation potential.

To compound the problem, recent survey results show more than 75 percent of healthcare leadership say their organization is increasing investments in AI. And 55 percent of those surveyed are investing more than $50 million.

With these automation risks potentially impacting several occupations in the field down the road, the healthcare sector and individuals working within it should prepare for changes. 

“The nation can learn from the IT era,” the report noted. “And here it is clear that a deliberate, coordinated adjustment stance that enlists federal, state and local policymakers, business, educators and civil society has the power to greatly improve the AI era by maximizing the productivity it may bring while mitigating its most negative labor market impacts.”

Embrace technological growth

To integrate AI into healthcare, healthcare leaders should embrace technological growth, though many may want to shy away from technology-driven change. Not doing so may stifle job growth and economic productivity, according to the report. 

Embracing technological growth and innovation also means earmarking funds for research and development on topics such as general-purpose AI and enhanced perceptual capabilities in AI systems.

“Also critical are urgent investments in the development of effective human-AI collaboration; humane and ethical automation and AI; and the legal and societal implications of these technologies,” the report read.

Promote a constant learning mindset

The AI shift will require healthcare workers “to develop a constant learning mindset and use it to work both with machines and in ways machines cannot.” 

To stay abreast of innovation, healthcare companies will need to: invest in “reskilling” workers, increase the availability of accelerated learning and certifications, make skill development more financially accessible and align and expand traditional education. 

For example, healthcare companies could lead employee training sessions that “improve firm output, enhance workers’ career prospects and help companies fill emerging critical needs.” 

Because some healthcare companies may hesitate to train workers, governments can also incentivize on-the-job training through tax credits.

Additionally, in academic settings, leadership can implement more technology-focused education. 

“Colleges and universities must also overhaul curricula in computer science and related fields. In this regard, expanded course offerings in hardcore technical fields like computer, data and cognitive science will grow in importance,” the report read.

Facilitate smoother adjustment

In the event that healthcare workers are displaced from their jobs due to AI, government entities should take the charge in helping workers. 

“Once workers are displaced from a job, it often takes a long time for them to adjust—to learn about a new occupation and/or industry and to develop the skills necessary to get hired in a new job,” the report read.

Strategies to mitigate the effects of healthcare job displacement due to AI include career counseling, effective training and income support. Additionally, funds should be provided for those who are willing to move for a new job.

“The nation needs to commit to deep-set educational changes, new efforts to help workers and communities adjust to change and a more serious commitment to reducing hardships for those who are struggling. If the nation can commit to its people in this way, a future full of machines will seem much more tolerable,” the report concluded.