How Remote Work Is Changing Medical Practice in the Era of Coronavirus

Societies across the world have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with millions of people being forced to stay indoors and many losing their jobs. But this very disruption has ushered us into what could be the new future of work. Remote work itself has been around for years but, traditionally, companies prefer their employees to work at their physical headquarters. That’s all beginning to change as a result of the pandemic.

With no choice for companies, entire industries and employees alike were forced to embrace remote work—yet this may just be the beginning. In fact, Business Insider recently discussed 12 different companies that were extending remote work, with some end dates as far away as the summer of 2021.

For other industries, however, there may not even be a return to the office on the horizon. 

Technology has made remote work possible but, ironically, has also been a disruptive force that has uprooted traditional jobs. This trend has only been accelerated by remote work—employers have realized just how many jobs can be done from the comfort of their homes. 

Over the past few years, the medical field has been slowly merging with technology. Every aspect of the healthcare system, from entire hospitals to physicians, is being influenced by new technological trends, including remote work. The future of the field has never been more unclear.

Flexibility with Administrative Tasks and Employees

In the coronavirus era, medical professionals are in high demand for obvious reasons. Many medical facilities have transitioned to working remotely. In fact, the automation of administrative tasks has been a major byproduct of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Offices around the country report feeling positive overall about these changes. Medical Economics recently examined Lugo Surgical Group, based out of Texas, who have been operating remotely for two years, showing that this is viable.

Each week, the owner of this clinic, Rafael Lugo, reserves a day and a half to meet with patients. Every other aspect of the surgical process—including billing, scheduling, and follow-ups—are done remotely. 

While doctors and nurses still need to meet with patients in person, it is clear that this is not the case for administration. This new hybrid business model has altered the jobs available in the medical field. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9% decline in secretarial or administrative assistant jobs over the next decade. Nonetheless, Covid-19 has highlighted the need for in-person physicians but has demonstrated that administrative workers are not essential for the office.

The Emergence of Artificial Intelligence Systems

While admin roles may be on an accelerated decline due to Covid-19, their replacement is coming far quicker. Artificial intelligence systems are impacting every field of business and its impact on medical practices is profound. Handling administrative tasks is just the tip of the iceberg for these advanced systems; however, there is a downfall. The trust medical offices have placed on these systems during the pandemic may result in them relying on AI to handle more intricate jobs.

As such, AI is changing medical practices, particularly when it comes to patient care. Surgeries powered by robotic instruments that are controlled by a surgeon are becoming extremely popular, and some systems are now able to diagnose patients quickly based on information inputted in the system. As these systems continue to develop, new jobs will open in the field of medicine based on regulating this technology and developing it.

Entire companies may form, focused on developing and then producing these AI and robotic systems. DaVinci Systems is a modern example, as the company produces surgical robots that are controlled via a human surgeon at a desk. These devices have already been approved for urological procedures, radical tonsillectomy, and even tongue base resections. Remote work has shown a new way in which these systems can be helpful. In truth, this pandemic could very well result in a future where there isn’t even a human surgeon behind the robot.   

Altering Career Paths and Customer Expectations

Before the pandemic, a common headache for patients was the annoying wait times and variability in the quality of service provided by the doctor. During the pandemic, though, wait times have become non-existent, with medical professionals able to conduct their job over a Zoom call. Additionally, the advancements of artificial intelligence systems could result in more accurate diagnosing in the future. Having access to medical professionals wherever and whenever, however, may have its drawbacks—patients may become disgruntled if medical practices return to normal after the pandemic settles.

As for doctors and other medical practitioners themselves, Covid-19 isn’t just changing the way they work, but also how they progress in their career. Online nursing programs, offered by accredited schools such as Johns Hopkins University and Rutgers University, have become more popular during this pandemic. With the number of people earning their degrees online increasing, remote learning practices may ease the transition to remote work. This could also contribute to the industry-wide switch over to automation powered by artificial intelligence.

Covid-19 has changed the way entire industries operate and the medical field is no exception. From artificial intelligence replacing administrative jobs to the way budding practitioners are learning the ropes, reliance on technology has increased as a byproduct of the pandemic. This is likely to lead to a future where medical practices are largely automated and in-person visits to the doctor are disrupted by robotics. 

Based on current trends, these changes were inevitable, but the pandemic may have accelerated them. While the future of the coronavirus is unclear, its effects on the workforce and jobs may be permanent—the way work is handled could be disrupted forever.

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