Posted: 22 Aug. 2019 5 min. read

Robots aren’t coming for our jobs, but exponential technologies could have a major impact on how we work together

By Jennifer Radin, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

We don’t believe robots are going to take over the world, and they’re not coming for our jobs. However, many tasks in health care and life sciences are likely to be enhanced, altered, or taken over entirely by artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, robotics, and other emerging technologies. Our 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 61 percent of 11,000 business leaders are actively redesigning jobs around AI, robotics, and new business models.

Work processes are being automated at an exponential pace and thinking about what the future of work might hold can spark fear and anxiety among employees. However, while next-gen technologies are poised to automate many jobs now performed by humans, we are starting to see those same technologies create new, adjacent, and expanded jobs…and new ways of working. There is the potential for automation to displace 22.7 million existing jobs over the next decade, but it also could create 13.6 million new jobs in the US, according to Deloitte research.

During a recent Dbrief webcast, I discussed the future of work with my colleagues Randy Gordon, MD. and Elaine Loo. Based on some of the data we’ve seen, we agree that we could have even more jobs in the future, but they will be different than what we have today.

We expect three major trends will shape the future of work in health care and life sciences:

1) Technology: Over the past 150 years or so, technology has helped to free us from dull, repetitive, and even dangerous work, and has boosted employment in knowledge-intensive sectors such as health care. Advancements in technology are accelerating exponentially. Over the past two years, humans have generated more data than during the entire history of the human race—about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day.1 Now consider this, by 2025, AI is expected to drive 95 percent of customer interactions in the US. If that happens, where do the humans go who are now conducting those interactions and supporting those conversations? Technology is driving change in jobs across all industries, particularly in health care, which is high-touch and requires a significant amount of communication as well as a continuous exchange of data and insights. Rather than using technology to replace humans, health leaders should look for opportunities where human capacity and capabilities can be augmented.

Consider this: Radiologists have a 70 percent accuracy rate when reading scans without assistance.2 That percentage jumps to about 90 percent when AI is used to enhance the radiologist.3 By layering in this level of technology, radiologists can achieve greater efficiencies, produce quicker and more accurate diagnoses, and expand their capacity to interact with specialists as well as with patients and families. And they could do all of this from anywhere in the world. This could result in shorter wait times (and less anxiety among patients), more accurate diagnoses and treatment protocol, and lower churn among physicians.

2) Generations and diversity: We are living and working longer than prior generations. While our parents might have spent 30 years in a career, some of us might wind up spending 50 or 60 years in the workforce, according to our recent report on the future of aging. Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) make up about 50 percent of our workforce today. In five years, as baby boomers retire, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce.4 In general, this generation approaches work differently than older generations. Millennials typically don’t feel tethered to their employer. More than 20 percent of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year—nearly three times higher than other workers.5 And more than 90 percent of surveyed millennials say that it is important for them to strike a balance between work, personal, and family responsibilities.6 Technology can help address these aspirations by removing many of the redundant tasks that can make jobs boring and repetitive and increasing human-to-human collaboration. Technology also can also make it possible for people to work in a wide range of settings.

Consider this: We estimate that most job skills in health have a half-life of about 2.5 years, meaning that every 2.5 years, that skill is about half as valuable as it was before. As a result, the skills needed for most jobs can change significantly every couple of years, and workers will likely need to learn new skills (or enhance existing ones) to maintain their career trajectory. Learning and transformation has actually become a significant part of most jobs.

3) Flexible workforces: Over the next 10 years, nearly half of the jobs we know today have the potential to be automated, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research.7 But that doesn’t mean jobs are being eliminated. The fastest growing workforce is the gig and contract workforce, which has increased about 95 percent over the past five years. Younger generations have come to expect flexible workplaces and looser timeframes for accomplishing the work. Next-generation technologies could help employers satisfy those expectations.

Consider this: By 2025, the nation’s 80 million baby boomers will be over the age of 60, according to our research on the future of aging. At the same time, the US is expected to face a nursing shortage of about 260,000.8 More than 50 percent of registered nurses are 54 or older and are considering retirement over the next few years in large part due to the physical burden of the work.9 Incorporating the innovative workforce strategies could lead to radically more productive clinical teams and more meaningful jobs. A company called ConnectRN uses a crowdsourcing concept that matches nurses to jobs based on their schedule, capabilities, and licensure.

Along with increasing overall accuracy and effectiveness, automation, predictive analytics, and machine learning can improve patient satisfaction while also having a positive impact on margins and reducing clinician burnout. Eliminating some of the more repetitive tasks in our jobs could lead to more meaningful and impactful work, returning the joy to medicine and increasing the human-to-human touch. The future is here, let’s embrace it together with courage, creativity, and kindness.

PS: Stay tuned for our clinician-of-the-future perspective—and a related blog—coming out next month from my colleague Randy Gordon.

1. How much data do we create every day? The mind-blowing stats everyone should read, Forbes, May 21, 2018
2. Interpretive error in radiology, American Journal of Roentgenology, April 2017
3. AI interprets radiology reports at 91 percent accuracy, HealhImaging, February 5, 2018
4. The (millennial) workplace of the future is almost here,, January 15, 2019
5. How millennials want to work and live, Gallup, Inc.
6. Millennial physicians sound off on state of medicine today, AMA Wire, March 2019
7. Robots and jobs: Evidence from US labor markets, the National Bureau of Economic Research, March 2017
8. Nursing shortage fact sheet, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2018
9. 2017 survey of registered nurses, AMN Healthcare 


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Jennifer Radin

Jennifer Radin

Principal | Deloitte Consulting

Jen, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, serves as Chief Innovation Officer for our Health Care practice and leads Deloitte’s Risk & Financial Advisory Health Care practice. She works to enable health care system executives to embrace disruptive transformation, helping them leverage applied innovation to design new models of clinical care and future proof their business. Jen is passionate about navigating the rapidly changing health ecosystem and creating value on the journey to health and wellness. Jen is a nationally acclaimed speaker on the topics of Future of Health and Future of Work. Integrating her experience into Deloitte’s Future of Work framework, Jen leads teams who analyze how work can be done, by whom and where the work takes place across clinical and non-clinical functions. Through this analytical modeling, she illuminates new ways of working and engaging with patients, families and across the care team. Jen is also passionate about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and was instrumental in the creation of the Deloitte Health Equity Institute. She is the co-founder and executive sponsor of Deloitte’s Physician Leadership Academy, supporting the evolving leadership capabilities of clinician leaders in the era of the Clinical Healthcare CEO.