Unlocking the potential of AI – investing in professionals is the key
A new report from EIT Health and McKinsey & Company has exposed an urgent need to attract, educate and train a generation of data literate healthcare professionals whilst up-skilling the current workforce if we are to realise the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The report – based on a survey of 175 people on the frontline and interviews with 62 decision makers  – explores the impact of AI on the future of European healthcare and its workforce as well as defining the new organisational models and skillsets healthcare professionals will need to support adoption and scaling.
It found that basic digital skills, biomedical and data science, data analysis, and the fundamentals of genomics will be absolutely essential if AI and machine learning is to penetrate healthcare services.
“These subjects are rarely taught alongside traditional medical sciences systematically,” explains Jorge Fernández García, Director of Innovation, EIT Health and co-author of the report.
“And so through no fault of their own, today’s healthcare workforce is simply not yet equipped for the adoption of AI.”
The incentives for healthcare systems to embrace these changes are clear. The WHO estimates that by 2030 the world will be short of 9.9 million doctors, nurses and midwives, which adds further urgency to address the challenge of already overburdened health systems. Supporting the widespread adoption and scaling of AI could help alleviate resource capacity shortfalls both now and in the future, by streamlining or even eliminating administrative tasks which can currently occupy anything between 20 and 80 percent of a healthcare professional’s time.1
At present, diagnostics is the main application of AI within healthcare. However, in the next 5-10 years, healthcare professionals expect clinical decision making to top the list of applications according to the survey.2
Jorge continues, “Being at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Europe, we are seeing an increasing number of tangible, impactful and exciting AI solutions created. However, we must couple the generation of new technology that can relieve some of the pressure on healthcare services with the ability for it to be integrated into care delivery. Now is the time for us to address the gaps so that Europe does not fall behind in the application of AI”.
Besides upskilling, better involvement of healthcare professionals in the early stages of AI development was also identified as a key need. Currently 44 percent of those questioned, chosen for their interest in healthcare innovation and AI, had never been involved in the development or deployment of an AI solution.2
Angela Spatharou, Partner at McKinsey & Company and report co-author comments: “AI has enormous potential to not only improve productivity and drive efficiencies in health systems in order to make them more sustainable, but also to deliver better health outcomes for patients by allowing more time for healthcare practitioners to spend time on patient care rather than administration. To realise its potential, healthcare organisations and systems needs to start implementing changes now”.
In their interviews, decision-makers emphasised the urgency in developing and scaling up training, and urged national health systems to work together with healthcare professionals, academia and industry in order to support healthcare providers who are often not large enough to create such programmes alone.2
The full report also identifies other key areas to be addressed in the healthcare sector to support the adoption of AI, including: strengthening data quality, governance, security and interoperability, implementing change management strategy, regulation, policy making and liability, funding models and reimbursement criteria investment, as well as how disciplines can work better together to improve quality.
Notes for Editors
The report entitled “Transforming healthcare with AI: The impact on the workforce and organisations” explores the perspective of public and private-sector decision makers and thought leaders in Europe and EU member states, alongside healthcare professionals, health investors and AI start-up founders and other executives.
Through interviews and surveys with those on the front line, who are already implementing these changes, the report contributes to the emerging debate on AI in healthcare. 62 interviews of public and private sector decision makers and thought leaders across Europe, North America and Asia, conducted between December 2019 and January 2020. A survey of 175 healthcare professionals, health investors and AI start-up founders and other executives were conducted between December 2019 and January 2020.
 EIT Health McKinsey report. (2020). “Transforming healthcare with AI: The impact on the workforce and organisations” [online] Available at: https://eithealth.eu/our-impact/our-reports/ [Accessed March 2020]
 Survey of 175 healthcare professionals, health investors and AI start-up founders and other executives and 62 interviews of public- and private-sector decision makers and thought leaders across Europe, North America and Asia conducted between December 2019 and January 2020.
 World Health Organisation. (2019). “Global strategy on human resources for health: Workforce 2030” Available online: https://www.who.int/hrh/resources/pub_globstrathrh-2030/en [Accessed March 2020]
About the report:
EIT Health and McKinsey & Company have published a Europe-wide report “Transforming healthcare with AI: The impact on the workforce and organisations” exploring the impact of AI on healthcare practitioners, as well as the implications and obstacles for scaling AI in healthcare organisations and systems.
Find out more:
- Report “Transforming healthcare with AI”
- Executive summary
- Swedish Press release: “AI’s potential i sjukvården – avgörande att investera i sjukvårdspersonalen”