Advances in knowledge and technology have created an opportunity for anesthesia specialists to address scientific questions at the core of the specialty as well as a variety of important clinical problems.
Future opportunities for anesthesiologists include greater involvement in pharmacogenomics, business and health care systems management and the development of new technologies, while continuing to lead and develop traditional areas such as operating room anesthesia, critical care, pain medicine, teaching, research and resuscitation.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now? As the healthcare market continues to change, the future for an anesthesia specialist isn’t as clear as it once was, and this is an important question to consider no matter where you are in your career.
In a health care sector now awash with data and digital technologies, physicians are actively preparing for the transformation of patient care. Stanford Medicine’s 2020 Health Trends Report once again documents key trends steering the industry’s future, including a maturing digital health market, new health laws opening patient access to data, and artificial intelligence gaining regulatory traction for medical use.
“We found that current and future physicians are not only open to new technologies but are actively seeking training in subjects such as data science to enhance care for their patients,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine. “We are encouraged by these findings and the opportunity they present to improve patient outcomes. At the same time, we must be clear-eyed about the challenges that may stymie progress.”
Here are a couple of key findings from the health care trends report:
- Health care providers adapting to new developments – Physicians, residents, and students expect that almost a third of their duties could be automated by technology in the next 20 years; Nearly half of all physicians (47%) and three quarters of medical students (73%) are currently seeking out additional training with 34% pursuing classes in artificial intelligence.
- Health care providers are digital health users and see clinical value in patient-generated sources of health data – Many physicians, students and residents use wearable health monitoring devices and a majority say they use the data to inform their personal health care decisions (71% of physicians, 60% of students and residents). Many say that self-reported data from a patient’s health app or a patient wearable device would also be clinically valuable in supporting their care.
Groups are Growing
Beside technological advancements, another major shift in the practice of anesthesiology impacting the changes happening now and how things will evolve in the future is group consolidation. During the 1990s, group practices began to emerge and exclusive contracts began to proliferate the majority of the market. By the 2000s, mega entities consisting of more than 100 practicing providers came into play, having the largest impact on reshaping the anesthesia market. As the biggest players in the game, and with strong financial support, these groups have the resources to easily gobble up smaller groups and become national anesthesia staffing organizations, who can outplay the competition.
Change is Inevitable
Telehealth was one of the biggest healthcare trends of 2020, with virtual visits accounting for about 20% of all medical visits in the United States. While Telehealth has become more mainstream, the “newness’ factor has worn off a bit as more practices are seeking ways to offer a hybrid care model encompassing virtual and in-person care.
So you may ask, “What other new medications, devices, new technology and clinical decision support tools are on the horizon?” Here are a few in use and possibilities to ponder.
- Pharmacogenetic testing will become standard clinical workflow to the point that pharmacotherapy will be personalized to an individual patient. Improvements in medication management based on a patient’s genotype will drive down opioid usage and further advance enhanced recovery care pathways.
- Non-Invasive Cardiac Output measurement will become just another routine vital sign we incorporate into pre-operative testing, perioperative monitoring and PACU care.
- Anesthesia Information Management Systems (AIMS) with intraoperative monitoring device connectivity will provide powerful decision support tools with real-time clinical guidance utilizing machine learning algorithms to predict things like hypotension long before it occurs clinically.
- Cardiovascular imaging with artificial intelligence software will automate calculation of left ventricular ejection fraction, making this a new standard vital sign for procedures using intraoperative cardiac echography.
- Pre-operative testing will be performed in virtual clinics by a “cognitive assistant” type platform that will complete repetitive tasks and engage patients through interactive patient portals to establish optimization pathways prior to procedural care.
- Patients will have 24/7 access to virtual nurse avatars who will help manage home medications and provide health assistance.
- Ingestible sensors and drug-device combination products will be able to monitor medication effectiveness and offer the ability to objectively track patient compliance.
- A new novel anesthetic agent will be available that combines the sedative-hypnotic drug properties of current medications with a rapidly titratable intravenous delivery system with a high therapeutic index and minimal side effects.
Pursuing continued innovation that personalizes patient-specific care, improves vigilance and patient safety through machine learning, virtual assistants and early warning surveillance systems will be challenging. Also, many believe it is important for the future of the specialty that anesthesiologists assume a broader role in perioperative medicine.
The rise of the data-driven physician represents an opportunity to positively transform medicine and improve health outcomes. So it’s important that you consider where you want to have a future as an anesthesia practitioner and make adjustments accordingly: Set meaningful goals; Be adaptable; Get informed and choose the right partners.
Stanford Medicine’s 2020 Health Trends Report Spotlights the Rise of the Data-Driven Physician. med.stanford.edu
The Future of Anesthesiology: What Anesthesia Providers Can Expect? fusionanesthesia.com
Anesthesiology in 2028. teamhealth.com