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In the orchestra that is healthcare, there is a lack of conductors.

Can medical doctors and nurses focus only on high-value, high-impact tasks? What basic transformations need to be implemented for this to happen?

Eduardo Freire Rodrigues

October 18, 2023 · 3 min read

Much has been said about the impact of the technological revolution on care provision, the infinite advantages of using algorithms to diagnose diseases at an early stage, the ability to personalize treatments, the possibility of blurring the boundaries between the hospital and each person's home. However, less attention has been paid to the redefinition of professional roles that is taking place. And this redefinition is not only desirable, but necessary.
It's no news that the demographic landscape has changed in recent decades and we are one of the "oldest" countries in the European Union. The average age of the Portuguese population will be 47 in 2022, the second highest among the 27 member states. While increasing longevity is a sign of scientific progress, it is not necessarily synonymous with better living. The increase in chronic diseases is the flipside, forcing the health system to reinvent itself in order to respond to needs that last over time, require multidisciplinary interventions, and whose success also depends on the ability to invest in prevention.
The fact is that human resources are scarce for so many diverse and demanding needs, and current care processes are not very efficient. To put it simply, there are low-value tasks allocated to extremely differentiated and, incidentally, exhausted professionals. It is therefore only useful to discuss the potential of technology for a healthier, more efficient and more differentiated future if the basis of care provision is also transformed, freeing up medical doctors, nurses and other professionals to focus on high-value, high-impact tasks.
At stake is the urgent need to promote the intelligent allocation of tasks between teams of healthcare professionals and to take this division to a new level, in which some of them can even dispense with human participation. In a context of scarce human resources, does it make sense for anesthesiologists to spend time filling out pre-surgical questionnaires with data that already exists in information systems? And how many follow-up appointments for stable patients could have been replaced by a moment of asynchronous communication, when general practitioners have lists of up to 2,000 patients? How efficient is the time that nursing teams spend on follow-up calls without any kind of tool to gauge, in advance, which patients are stable and those where their intervention could really make a difference?
In order to reverse this scenario, two fundamental pieces are needed: technology - responsible for carrying out the tasks assigned to it - and care journeys - plans that indicate the route the patient will take from the moment they are diagnosed, linking all points in the healthcare system. The participation of medical doctors and nurses in the design and management of these journeys not only allows these professionals to identify the critical points where the technology is effectively useful, but also to determine the tasks that can be delegated to it, guaranteeing an effective allocation of tasks and greater control and autonomy over the care process.
Like an orchestra, guided by the musical staff, care journeys guide the actions of all the professionals and the technology. Each team "plays its instrument" autonomously and in rhythm. The medical doctor is freed from undifferentiated tasks, moving from the role of executor of any and all tasks to focus on high-value tasks, conceptualization and management - like the composer and conductor of an orchestra.
Our system already has top musicians - health professionals - and new instruments continue to arrive with promises of intelligence, precision, predictability and security. What's missing? The distribution of musical staffs, which unify different levels of care and multidisciplinary teams and identify exactly which note each instrument should play, in order to increase care predictability, units' differentiation and professionals' specialization.
Staffs and conductors make healthcare work harmoniously.
Music to all our ears.

Eduardo Freire Rodrigues

CEO & Co-founder

Eduardo is a Public Health specialist, CEO and co-founder of UpHill. He has a master's degree in medicine from NOVA University of Lisbon and a postgraduate degree in clinical research from Harvard University. He is also a visiting assistant in Digital Health at ISCTE and NOVA Medical School. Early on, he learned how to code at the age of 14 and became passionate about it since then.

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