Your company’s new, upskilled health worker of the future is you

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In 2019, healthcare companies will identify which employees have to be upskilled or reskilled to get the most out of new and impending investments into technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). These technologies will be critical in helping companies continue their shift into providing care anywhere through telehealth, as well as reduce transactional tasks for the 63% of US health workers that say the work they do requires a great deal of manual entry or analysis.1

Healthcare companies are trying to figure out how to accomplish this training, and every company is affected. Out of provider executives HRI surveyed on the subject, 45 percent say their workforce’s capabilities are a significant barrier to organizational change.2 Fifty-five percent of payer executives say it’s very important for new hires to be skilled in informatics and data analytics, second only to customer service.3 Six in 10 pharmaceutical executives surveyed by HRI said their workforce has the skills needed for an evolving digital economy.4

Companies could choose to hire external talent, but that strategy presents significant challenges: Thirty-five percent of the skills workers will need will change by 2020, and the required skills will continue to evolve, according to the World Economic Forum.5 For example, 20 percent of workers are expected to rely on artificial intelligence to do their jobs by 2022, according to Gartner Inc.6 AI and process automation are expected to eliminate 1.8 million jobs while creating 2.3 million new ones reliant on a more skilled workforce.7

Forty-two percent of US workers surveyed by PwC said they agreed or strongly agreed that automation would put jobs at risk of  elimination.8 This first wave of automation in healthcare has affected finance functions the most. While upskilling an employee may take time, companies that invest in making employees digitally fit should be ready for the technological challenges of tomorrow and beyond. These investments could create two types of competitive advantages: A better skilled workforce, and a workforce that is less likely to leave. A recent HRI survey found that healthcare workers are more likely than those working in other industries to think training on new technologies would help them do their jobs more effectively. They also were more likely to say they would stick with an employer if the training was offered.

For companies concerned about disruption, upskilling and reskilling make for a nimble, sustainable strategy. More specialization will be needed, and competition for the talent with those skills will be fierce. Thirty-eight percent of executive respondents to PwC’s 2018 global CEO survey said they’re extremely concerned about the availability of key skills as a threat to business growth, and 38 percent said they were extremely concerned about the speed of technological change.9 A recent PwC survey found that 75 percent of US workers are willing to learn new skills or completely retrain to remain employable.10


Training in RPA and AI can help healthcare professionals practice at the top of their licenses and abilities, automating tedious work that adds little value and freeing them up to focus on higher-value tasks such as spending more time with patients and customers. This could increase employee job satisfaction and may also help professionals glean new insights from existing data. For example, physicians could use machine learning to reanalyze old charts and medical images to develop new care standards or determine with a higher degree of confidence whether a patient has a specific condition.

“In most cases, artificial intelligence isn’t getting rid of people in an organization,” said Peter Durlach, senior vice president of healthcare strategy and new business development at Nuance Communications Inc., in an interview with HRI. “What Nuance’s AI product does is amplify the core capabilities of humans to make them more productive and efficient. We help unburden care teams and give them more time to take care of patients by providing efficient new ways to capture clinical information and deliver real-time intelligence for better decision-making. It’s about augmenting human intelligence—not replacing it.”

For all healthcare companies—and especially those affected by recent deal-making—2019 will be a time to invest in increasing their existing workforce’s efficiency and productivity to ensure they can compete at the top of their abilities and licenses.11 The convergence of healthcare and digital also is driving companies to rethink how they operate and who their competition is. As many technology companies in the Fortune 50 (20 percent) are now involved in healthcare as traditional healthcare companies, according to an HRI analysis.12 This translates to new competition for many healthcare companies, which face the deep talent pools and customer skill sets of technology companies such as Apple Inc. and Amazon.

While much of the initial upskilling waves will focus on back-office employees, including those working in information technology and human resources, companies should give equal thought to their customer-facing employees to improve how they deliver healthcare to patients. Some workforces already anticipate this change. Thirty-nine percent of physicians think virtual health use will significantly increase in the next 10 years, according to an HRI survey.13 Consumers and patients, too, seem willing to adopt this model of “care anywhere and everywhere,” which increases the promise of new business models emerging to serve consumers more conveniently.14 But training will have to emphasize the soft skills of using technology. Patients, for example, should see doctors’ faces—not the backs of their heads—while the doctors use a technology platform.


Modernize the HR strategy

Before rolling out any technology training program, health companies should develop incentives and performance metrics for employees that align with the digitally fit culture they seek to develop. They also should revisit their recruitment and retention strategies to compete for a gig workforce that is attracted to a virtual work environment.

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Consider how best train your employees

Companies looking for better ways to train their employees in technology use can embrace digital tools to engage and educate them. Many companies lack in-house training capabilities—either expertise in training or the learning management system required to train a national workforce—and will have to partner with external organizations to deliver advanced training. Some healthcare companies—and in particular academic medical centers—are already aligned with educational institutions and may be able to advance more quickly.

An example of those who partner to train their employees is AT&T, which is working with the online training platform Udacity and the Georgia Institute of Technology to teach such skills as data science and cloud computing. The arrangement also helps employees obtain low-cost master’s degrees and so-called “nano” degrees, which focus on a single subject.15 The company plans to spend more than $1 billion training its workforce to be ready for the future instead of relying on technology that’s expected to soon be obsolete.16

Academic institutions may be able to adapt by incorporating training on intelligent automation into their curricula. Learning how to design data-driven, evidence-based care plans using AI or RPA could make the clinicians of tomorrow more capable and effective caregivers.17

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Consider which employees should get top priority

Healthcare companies already have experience training their employees on technological systems, including one notable example: electronic health records. As they did then, companies won’t have to train every employee immediately, and they won’t have to train each employee at the same level. Consider your company’s immediate needs and which employees might benefit most, such as leadership and key staff who can spread knowledge to others. For example, Nokia Corp. has said that it will train all its employees on the basics of machine learning, while a pool of experts will consider ways to implement the technology more broadly.18 Identifying those employees can yield rapid benefits for a business.

Some employees, such as a hospital system’s IT team, will soon need strong abilities in a given subject area, such as developing a technology. Others, such as nurses or social workers, may need fewer capabilities in using that technology once it’s deployed. Fifty-one percent of employees whom HRI surveyed said they felt that training in AI, RPA and analytics would help them do their jobs better.19 These skills should be developed in tandem with strategic goals to ensure a company is ready to act on its strategy. Companies also should consider measuring employee engagement and success. Just because an employee has access to training doesn’t mean that employee will—or has time to—take advantage of it.

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1 PwC, “Consumer Intelligence Series – Tech at Work survey,” “Thinking about the tasks that you are required to do at work, please rate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements: The work that I do requires a great deal of manual entry or analysis,” 2018

2 PwC Health Research Institute 2017 provider executive survey, August 2017, “For each of the following, please indicate how much of a barrier it is for your organization in the efforts to better meet patient expectations: Lack of the right capabilities/workforce.”

PwC Health Research Institute 2017 payer executive survey, September 2017, “Over the next five years, is it important for your new hires to be skilled in the following areas?”

4 PwC Health Research Institute 2016 pharmaceutical executive survey, December 2016, “To what extent do you agree with the following statements about the skills within your organization? Our employees have the skills required for the evolving digital economy.”

5 World Economic Forum, “Skill, re-skill and re-skill again. How to keep up with the future of work,” July 31, 2017,

6 Gartner, “Gartner Says By 2020, Artificial Intelligence Will Create More Jobs Than It Eliminates,” Dec. 13, 2017,


8 PwC, “Workforce of the future: The competing forces shaping 2030,” “To what extent do you agree that ‘Automation is putting jobs at risk’?” 2018,

9 PwC 2018 Global CEO Survey, “The Anxious Optimist in the Corner Office,”

10 PwC, “Workforce of the future: The competing forces shaping 2030,” “To what extent do you agree that ‘I am ready to learn new skills or to completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future?’ ” 2018,

11 PwC Health Research Institute, “The New Health Economy in the age of disruption: Novel combinations attempt to remake the health system,” April 2018,

12 Ibid.

13 PwC Health Research Institute 2018 clinician survey, “When thinking about what patient care will look like in 10 years, how significantly will the following increase or decrease?”

14 PwC Health Research Institute February 2018 consumer survey

15 AT&T, “Efficient, Accessible, Affordable, Online Program Will Help Job Seekers Get High-Demand Technical Skills,” June 2014,; Udacity, “Discover your future in our programs,”

16 Susan Caminiti, “AT&T’s $1 billion gambit: Retraining nearly half its workforce for jobs of the future,” CNBC, March 13, 2018,

17 PwC Health Research Institute, “Preparing future primary care physicians for the New Health Economy,” March 2017,

18 Risto Siilasmaa, “The Chairman of Nokia on Ensuring Every Employee Has a Basic Understanding of Machine Learning — Including Him,” Harvard Business Review, Oct. 4, 2018,

19 PwC Health Research Institute Top Health Industry Issues consumer survey, “How strongly do you agree that training on data analysis, robotics and automation and/or artificial intelligence will help you do your job more effectively?” September 2018


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Benjamin Isgur

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Kelly Barnes

Global and US Health Industries Leader, PwC US

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Health Services Leader, PwC US

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