Elsevier Health’s first “Clinician of the Future” global report reveals current pain points, predictions for the future and how the industry can come together to address gaps

Thousands of doctors and nurses from across the globe reveal what is needed to fill gaps and future-proof today’s healthcare system in a new report from Elsevier Health. Published two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the comprehensive “Clinician of the Future” report, conducted in partnership with Ipsos uncovers just how undervalued doctors and nurses feel, and their call for urgent support such as more skills training — especially in the effective use of health data and technology; preserving the patient-doctor relationship in a changing digital world; and recruiting more healthcare professionals into the field.

Their voices have been elevated in this first global, multiphase research report to not only understand where the healthcare system is following the COVID-19 pandemic, but where it needs to be in 10 years to ensure a future that both providers and patients deserve.

Doctors and nurses play a vital role in the health and well-being of our society. Ensuring they are being heard will enable them to get the support they need to deliver better patient care in these difficult times,” said Jan Herzhoff, President of Elsevier Health. “We must start to shift the conversation away from discussing today’s healthcare problems to delivering solutions that will help improve patient outcomes. In our research, they have been clear about the areas they need support; we must act now to protect, equip and inspire the clinician of the future.

There has never been a greater need for lifting the voices of healthcare professionals. The global study found 71% of doctors and 68% of nurses believe their jobs have changed considerably in the past 10 years, with many saying their jobs have gotten worse. One in three clinicians are considering leaving their current role by 2024, with as many as half of this group in some countries leaving healthcare entirely. This comes on top of the existing global healthcare workforce shortage, where clinicians continue to experience severe levels of fatigue and burnout since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

As a practicing doctor, I am acutely aware of the struggles today’s clinicians face in their efforts to care for patients,” said Charles Alessi, MD, Chief Clinical Officer, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). “This comprehensive report from Elsevier Health provides an opportunity for the industry to listen — and act — on the pivotal guidance given by those on the frontlines. I commend this important initiative and look forward to next steps in supporting our doctors and nurses.

What today’s clinicians want for the clinician of the future

The “Clinician of the Future” report includes a quantitative global survey, qualitative interviews and roundtable discussions with nearly 3,000 practicing doctors and nurses around the world. The data helps shed light on the challenges impacting the profession today and predictions on what healthcare will look like in the next decade, according to those providing critical patient care. To ensure a positive shift moving into the future—and to fill current gaps—clinicians highlight the following priority areas for greater support.

Enhancing health technology skills: Clinicians predict that over the next 10 years “technology literacy” will become their most valuable capability, ranking higher than “clinical knowledge.” In fact, 56% of clinicians predict they will base most of their clinical decisions using tools that utilize artificial intelligence. However, 69% report being overwhelmed with the current volume of data and 69% predict the widespread use of digital health technologies to become an even more challenging burden in the future. As a result, 83% believe training needs to be overhauled so they can keep pace with technological advancements.

A greater focus on the patient-provider relationship: Clinicians predict a blended approach to healthcare with 63% saying most consultations between clinicians and patients will be remote and 49% saying most healthcare will be provided in a patient’s home instead of in a healthcare setting. While clinicians may save time and see more patients thanks to telehealth, more than half of clinicians believe telehealth will negatively impact their ability to demonstrate empathy with patients they no longer see in person. As a result, clinicians are calling for guidance on when to use telehealth and how to transfer soft skills like empathy to the computer screen.

An expanded healthcare workforce: Clinicians are concerned about a global healthcare workforce shortage, with 74% predicting there will be a shortage of nurses and 68% predicting a shortage of doctors in 10 years’ time. This may be why a majority of global clinicians agree that a top priority will be to increase the number of healthcare workers in the coming decade. Clinicians require the support of larger, better equipped teams and expanded multidisciplinary healthcare teams, such as data analysts, data security experts and scientists, as well as clinicians themselves.

“While we know that many nurses are leaving the profession due to burnout, we also know that the pandemic has inspired others to enter the field because of a strong desire for purposeful work,” said Marion Broome, PhD RN, FAAN, Ruby F. Wilson Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, Duke University. “We must embrace this next wave of healthcare professionals and ensure we set them up for success. Our future as a society depends on it.”

Looking to the future

Findings from this research will be leveraged to provide strategic insights and solutions for physicians, nurses, educators, healthcare administrators and policymakers as Elsevier Health establishes initiatives designed to address the gaps highlighted; provide an annual Elsevier Health “Clinician of the Future” pulse survey to ensure these voices continue to be front-and-center; convene a Global Coalition of healthcare leaders and institutions to explore solutions at the medical school and clinical practice level; and explore the issue of patient empathy in partnership with our trusted research journals and subject matter experts.

“Ultimately, we asked clinicians for what they need, and now it’s our responsibility as a healthcare industry to act,” said Thomas (Tate) Erlinger, MD, MPH, Vice President, Clinical Analytics, Elsevier Health. “Now is the time for bold thinking — to serve providers and patients today and tomorrow. We need to find ways to give clinicians the enhanced skills and resources they need to better support and care for patients in the future. And we need to fill in gaps today, to stop the drain on healthcare workers to ensure a strong system in the next decade and beyond.”

Research methodology

Elsevier and Ipsos collaborated to develop this study with Ipsos conducting the three phases of research cumulatively leading to the explorations in this report. The phases included (1) 60-minute online qualitative interviews with 23 key opinion leaders from around the world to uncover trends and expectations for the future state of clinician roles and to inform quantitative design (run from Aug. 11 until Sept. 10, 2021). Participants were recruited from databases supplied by Elsevier and its flagship medical journal, The Lancet, in addition to clinicians recruited directly from Ipsos’ network (REACH – Thought Leadership); (2) a 15-minute online global survey completed by 2,8381 clinicians to measure attitudes and uncover the paradigm shifts expected to most impact how healthcare is delivered (run from Oct. 15 until Dec. 13, 2021). The 2,838 respondents included a mixture of doctors and nurses from around the world. All participants who took part chose to do so, and individuals invited to participate were drawn from a number of sources, including clinicians who had published recently, who were randomly selected from a database of published authors across 9,000 health titles (including journals and books) from various publishers, clinicians on a third-party panel, and users of Elsevier solutions aimed at doctors and nurses. Data generated from this study was weighted using a regional weighting efficiency of 77.7% and a doctor-to-nurse weighting efficiency of 93.0%; (3) three qualitative virtual roundtables with 13 key opinion leaders in the US (5 participants), UK (4 participants) and China (4 participants) to gather reactions to the findings and provide expert points of view on the clinician of the future (run Nov. 22, 2021, Dec. 7, 2021, and Jan. 13, 2022). A global medical student roundtable with 12 participants was also conducted to capture the voice of the next generation of clinicians (run Feb. 15, 2022). For these roundtables, participants were recruited from databases supplied by Elsevier and The Lancet, in addition to clinicians recruited directly from Ipsos’ network (REACH – Thought Leadership), a global social impact organization. 

To read the “Clinician of the Future” report in its entirety, click here.

Notes for editors

[1] Full base size Total (n=2838), Doctors (n=1691), Nurses (n=1108)

Total (n=2838). Females (1465), Males (1300), Other (73)

Total (n=2838), USA (n=434), UK (n=604), China (n=499), India (n=161), DE (n=162), JP (n=63), FR (n=82), ES (n=239), AUS (n=46), Mexico (n=50), NOAM (n=445), EUROPE (n=1255), APAC (n=842), MEA (n=128), South America (n=168);

Doctor (n=1691), USA (n=261), UK (n=411), China (n=209), India (n=69), DE (n=69), JP (n=61), FR (n=24*), ES (n=130), AUS (n=30), Mexico (n=39), NOAM (n=268), EUROPE (n=755), APAC (n=433), MEA (n=105), South America (n=130);

Nurses (n=1108), USA (n=164), UK (n=190), China (n=289), India (n=92), DE (n=86), JP (n=2*), FR (n=55), ES (n=106), AUS (n=16*), Mexico (n=9*), NOAM (n=168), EUROPE (n=481), APAC (n=408), MEA (n=21*), South America (n=30).