Technology Poses Little Threat to Senior Care Worker Shortage

Senior care workers have little to fear. The future of health care may be digital, but that doesn’t mean people won’t still play a vital role in care delivery. 

In fact, although the health care industry will increasingly rely on digital technologies to personalize care and free-up health care workers’ time, digital technology will only augment, not replace, human labor, according to Kaveh Safavi, the senior managing director of the health practice at global professional services company Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

Safavi co-authored Accenture’s new report, the Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2016, which details five digital forces that the company believes will reshape health care delivery over the next three to five years: intelligent automation, the liquid workforce, the platform economy, predictable disruption and digital trust.


Accenture’s assertion that human roles will not be threatened by the increasing use of technology in the health care space aligns with recent findings from national seniors housing association Argentum, which sees little threat to human workers in the senior living industry. In fact, Argentum predicts, the senior living industry will have to create 347,000 new jobs by 2025, pushing total industry employment to more than 1.1 million.

The “intelligent automation” idea means technology will not replace people in the health care industry—rather, it will enable them to work more efficiently, and where they are needed most, the report says.

The “liquid workforce” idea involves the emergence of a more fluid workforce that can work wherever help is needed, the report says. For instance, a doctor in the digital age may Skype with a patient who is bedridden, or a patient in rural Iowa can consult with a specialist in New York without ever traveling. 


In the next few years, health care consumers will go to one central place to view their electronic medical record, book an appointment or pay an out-of-pocket expense; that’s the “platform economy” in action, the report explains. Similarly, health care plans will connect with consumers via engagement platforms, gathering data from wearables and offering premium discounts or rewards for progress, Accenture predicts.

Additionally, health care companies worth their salt should expect industry disruptors and try to beat them to the punch, the report suggests.

“If the banking industry has mastered mobile payments, health plans should explore mobile apps that can make out-of-pocket payments pain-free for consumers,” the report says. “If companies like Spotify can successfully deliver music as a service, health care providers should also look at how care can be delivered as a service.”

Health care companies of all kinds also must instill trust in consumers that the data they store is secure and private. Organizations must determine how to ethically and responsibly manage a huge trove of customer data that is increasing in volume by the minute, the report says—otherwise, they risk losing consumer trust.

“The outcome of a people-first, digital health strategy is that it liberates the healthcare workforce to focus on more meaningful work that requires judgment and personal interaction,” Safavi said in a prepared statement.

Accenture researchers surveyed 101 health care executives, 600 doctors and 2,225 consumers to create the report.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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