Digital transformation is gaining ground in the field of pharmacies and hospitals – are you ready?

Globally, digital transformation is gaining ground in all sectors. Change in working life is inevitable, which means that we should be more willing to deploy new technologies. Leading expert on the capacity of renewal, Tuula Tiihonen from the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, encourages us to try out new digital solutions. In her opinion, as well as running bold pilot schemes, we should develop training schemes in order to better equip our experts to make the most of the opportunities that digitalisation provides.

Tiihonen knows that people in many work communities wonder whether an automated device will pay for itself and reduce the workload. Pilot schemes are launched, but sometimes even good innovations are not commissioned at the end of the scheme. Why is that?

“Lack of time is one reason for going back to the old ways. A pilot scheme should be allocated adequate time, and a goal should be set in order to be able to show any cost savings generated, for example. If the goal is achieved, we will purchase the device or software. Financial incentives are also needed, such as a fund from which to apply for support to commission new technology. We are always talking about an investment to replace something old or improve our current method.”

Customer satisfaction is the incentive

According to Tiihonen, customer experience should be the key incentive, rather than money. She talks about a survey conducted by Sitra* in 2013 and one conducted by the Finnish Medical Association more recently, that showed that people in Finland believe that digitalisation will improve health care services. People expect the services to be easy and fast, something digitalisation could deliver.

“Surprisingly enough, the greatest resistance to digitalisation often comes from the professionals. They may be worried about the shift of power to someone else, somewhere else. Changes in operating cultures take time.”

When training young doctors, Tiihonen is often asked whether they will have jobs in the future. Tiihonen’s answer is yes, but their job descriptions will change.

“In just ten years’ time, we may all have virtual personal assistants that will use our genotype, resting heart rate and blood pressure to assess whether we should see a doctor. AI assistants will then contact the doctor for us.”

Automation makes it easier to optimise staffing ratios

As well as thinking about their own job descriptions, professionals wonder about the ethical aspects of automated equipment, pharmacy robots, artificial intelligence and other technological devices. They are worried about people not understanding the logic of technology in the future: how an algorithm was built, or which information the artificial intelligence will use when helping people with patient care.

The big question is: how to make sure that technology is reliable?

“People worry about power shifting to technology. This is why I stress that it is important to give serious consideration to the development of our training system and the digital competence of experts.”

Tiihonen encourages us to prepare for digital transformation and points out that the way we train our doctors and nurses is still fairly conventional. She says that our educational institutions have not yet woken up to the future. Instead of worrying, our focus should be on the huge potential of new technologies – also in employment policy.

“For example, the public debate on the staff-patient ratio is heated in Finland and many other countries in Europe. We are worried about having enough people working in hospitals, health care and home care in the coming decades. My answer is that more automation can free up nurses from routine tasks for patient care.”

More information

Tuula Tiihonen, Senior Lead, Capacity of Renewal

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra

Sitra is working toward a fair and sustainable future, the next era of well-being. The themes include foresight, carbon neutral circular economy, education, capacity of renewal, as well as new working life and sustainable economy.

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