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AI Disruption is Coming. Are Healthcare Professionals Ready?

The modern healthcare environment will require ambidextrous experts in healthcare and AI

As the artificial intelligence (AI) market grows to over $400 billion by 2027, the demand for professionals with expertise in machine learning is increasing as AI technology rapidly evolves. Within the healthcare sector, a deep knowledge of the clinical sciences and healthcare skills will no longer be enough.

Moving ahead, healthcare corporations and academia must empower ambidextrous professionals with expertise in both machine learning and health science to stay innovative and competitive.

To build the healthcare environment of the future, healthcare professionals (HCPs) must dedicate more focus on AI in study and research, corporations will need to empower the next generation of interdisciplinary leaders in real-world healthcare settings, and academia and healthcare companies must cultivate and train new talent.

Develop ambidextrous skills in ongoing study and research

Large healthcare companies are exploring ways to integrate AI within their businesses to drive greater efficiencies across different R&D and commercial processes and workflows. With a shift towards corporations placing outsized value on an ambidextrous skillset, HCP graduates are dedicating more focus on AI in their study and research.

LEO Pharma is an example of HCPs applying AI to medical affairs activities. Pharmacists led the development of an AI tool that reduced the workload of medical affairs professionals at the company by five hours a week, allowing them to spend more time supporting meaningful HCP engagements.

In other industries, there are questions, including whether AI will replace certain jobs and functions. AI will never replace HCPs, but the ones that don’t embrace AI may be left behind. We are only scratching the surface of AI’s massive untapped potential within healthcare. Innovative clinicians of the future will prioritize gaining AI skills through study and research.

Empower ambidextrous professionals to lead interdisciplinary healthcare teams

Interdisciplinary teams that empower ambidextrous AI and healthcare professionals as leaders and project owners will realize their full potential. Their leadership can help fill the gaps in knowledge and communication between team members and drive significant efficiencies.

For HCPs, their lack of technical expertise may lead to an overestimation of AI capabilities, causing a mismatch between expectations and technical realities. For machine learning experts, insufficient knowledge of healthcare can be a barrier to identifying the right problems to solve with AI, resulting in misdirected initiatives and misallocated resources.

These dynamics require thoughtfulness among health organizations empowering the right leaders for AI initiatives. And the HCPs that emphasize developing an ambidextrous skillset will be more prepared to take on new leadership roles.

Find and cultivate ambidextrous talent in corporate and academic environments

Identifying ambidextrous expertise in health medicine and AI is not easy. Healthcare professionals are specialized experts that take years to train. Few universities have programs that offer training in AI. This is a challenge that the life sciences industry and academia can solve together.

Public-private partnerships are essential for professionals to develop their AI knowledge in colleges and universities and refine their skills through practical applications in the workplace. To do this, the private sector can offer internships and fellowships that provide opportunities for HCPs to develop their ambidextrous skillset.

From an academia perspective, many medical faculties have recognized the potential of AI in healthcare and invested accordingly. At the University of Toronto, for example, the Temerty Centre for AI Research and Education in Medicine (T-CAIREM) was created to explore the intersection of health science and AI. More academic institutions will need to create similar programs to enable the AI transformation in healthcare.

Ambidextrous professionals will drive AI innovation in healthcare

Dr. Devin Singh is an ambidextrous leader at T-CAIREM, with medical training and a Master of Computer Science degree. He also co-founded Hero AI to develop solutions that address emergency room wait times and patient care workflow.

Dr. Jeff Chang and Dr. Eunice Wu are other examples of ambidextrous leaders. Dr. Chang is a radiologist with graduate degrees in business and AI. He founded Rad AI to support the efficiency of physician tasks such as dictation and clinical decision-making. Dr. Wu and her company, Asepha, use AI technology to reinvent the pharmacy workflow. Her deep entrepreneurial background and clinical expertise help identify and act on pressing pharmacy needs to supplement her AI insights.

More leaders such as these will be required. With the right ambidextrous people in the right roles, corporations can further innovation in AI and healthcare. Companies must place a higher emphasis on recruiting and developing ambidextrous experts. The ability to empower and retain such experts and leaders will not only alter the course of their business, but also increase their relevance as AI rapidly transforms our modern economy.

Photo: Sylverarts, Getty Images

Dr. Peter Zhang, PharmD, MBA is partner, business acceleration at ODAIA Intelligence, a Hospital Pharmacist, and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy studying the intersection of healthcare and entrepreneurship. He is a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto on topics related to life sciences, AI, and management.

Dr. Karen Ka Yan Ng, PharmD, is a medical information specialist at Novo Nordisk, University of Toronto graduate, and an expert on AI and healthcare. Her recent work focuses on the use of large language models (LLMs) and retrieval augmented generation (RAG) as core reasoning engines to automate tasks and take real-world actions. She is a frequent speaker at international healthcare AI conferences, sharing insights on the development and application of AI tools in medical affairs.

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