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The new skill set doctors need to treat a digital world

Perry Price, President, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Revation Systems
Written by: Perry Price

Many of us likely had dreams of being a doctor or a surgeon when we were children. For some of us, that calling may have even been inspired by a popular board game called Operation, a make-believe operation table that challenged players to remove objects from the patient’s body with careful precision, using only a pair of tweezers. While Hasbro’s game has remained mostly unchanged since it was first released in 1965, the skills required of the “doctors” in this game differ quite a bit from the skills doctors are expected to have today. Physical dexterity was once a highly coveted skill for physicians, but in today’s world, technology is slowly replacing it. Take, for example, the fact that robots are now able to perform complex operations through the guidance of remote physicians.

Today’s doctors are challenged to keep up with a patient population that thrives off of digital processes, stay up-to-date with all the new technology and tools coming out of the healthcare industry, and acquire a completely new set of skills to succeed in this new digital world we live in.

Back to the Basics

In the past few decades, physicians and other professionals in the medical industry have needed some proficiency in computer skills to navigate daily tasks on the job, but now the need for doctors to have advanced computer skills is even more vital. The implementation of new technological innovations such as virtual visits, electronic health records (EHR) systems and telemedicine solutions has significantly impacted the types of skills that doctors and physicians must invest in.

Telemedicine solutions (namely virtual visits) are currently booming in our healthcare system. In fact, the 2016 Physician Trends Report by Jackson Healthcare states that the number of patients using telemedicine services will increase from less than 350,000 in 2013 to 7 million in 2018. And as telemedicine continues to increase in its influence, doctors across the nation will need to hone in on their computer skills to successfully and efficiently navigate new telemedicine techniques and solutions.

It’s also important that healthcare providers brush up on what may seem like rudimentary computer skills, such as typing or testing video cameras and headsets for audio to virtually communicate with patients. It’s crucial that doctors know how to quickly and efficiently troubleshoot minor errors that may occur during a video visit, especially with a new patient.

Getting Comfortable with Telemedicine Devices

In addition to fine-tuning their computer skills, doctors must learn how to use these new telemedicine devices. For example, remote monitoring devices improve patient outcomes as well as eliminate the need for a physical visit to a clinic. Today, it is critical that providers develop strong skills related to telemedicine technology. They must be prepared to instruct patients how to properly use the device, as well as know how to read and interpret the incoming data.

A recent mHealth and Home Monitoring report from Berg Insight states that the number of remotely monitored patients grew by 44 percent to 7.1 million in 2016. Remote patient monitoring continues to be a successful strategy for improving patient outcomes, so now is the time for doctors to become more comfortable and skilled in using these innovative technologies.

Keeping an Open Mind

Although there is much to be said for a strong skill set in computers and telemedicine devices, perhaps the most important skill now required of doctors in this digital world is the ability to have an open mind. As technology continues to advance the systems and processes of the healthcare industry, providers must embrace new innovations to stay at the top of their game. While telemedicine is spreading, policy changes are also popping up. For instance, many health plans now cover telemedicine services. As telemedicine services gain acceptance across the nation, keeping an open mind to accepting, learning and implementing digital skills is quite possibly the most critical skill that providers need to treat a digital world.