Health Care Staffing and Automation: Are You Ready for Robots?

Nolan Gray Artificial Intelligence, Staffing

Staffing services agencies in the health care space should consider a business risk many may never have thought they'd have to tackle: the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on the bottom line. According to Staffing Industry Analysts' most recent report for the staffing industry, it will pay to be prepared for computerization – and, yes, robots – in the health care industry.

An academic study conducted in September 2013 by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, titled "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?" found 47 percent of total U.S. employment was at high risk of computerization. Staffing Industry Analysts found temporary staffing services jobs are at an even higher risk, with 63 percent of positions currently filled by contingent workers vulnerable to computerization, robots and AI.

However, the news for health care staffing services agencies is fairly good. In comparison to an industry-wide probability of computerization of 0.719 across all staffing agency jobs, health care positions have a 0.242 probability of computerization. This puts the field in second-to-last place, just above engineering and design. Both of these fields require the human touch – robotic nurses probably are not the wave of the immediate future, and neither are robotic design professionals.

Health Care Risk Levels
Within the health care field itself, though, there are levels of risk for different positions being made redundant by the power of technology. People in low contact with patients may see their jobs become automated, such as medical records and health information technicians and medical transcriptionists. Those who work with patients face-to-face will likely not be replaced by technology in the near future. This includes mental health counselors, dieticians, social workers and all primary providers like physicians, surgeons and dentists.

Staffing agencies working in the health care space can respond to these risks in a number of ways. One is to ensure the agency offers a wide range of talent acquisition services, including high-touch positions that are unlikely to be automated. Another is to keep abreast of developments in AI and other technological solutions as they apply to health care; Staffing Industry Analysts believes staffing firms may in the future be major players in this space by providing these technologies and services as needed. Furthermore, a rise in automation may also mean more health care organizations will want to hire human workers on a temporary or contract basis for defined projects and needs.

Futuristic as it sounds, the threat of work automation in health care is real – and smart staffing agencies will begin to address it now.

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