Editor’s Note: Richard van Hooijdonk is a futurist and international keynote speaker on future technologies and disruption and how these technologies change our everyday lives. Van Hooijdonk and his international team research ‘mega trends’ on digital health, robotic surgery,drones, the internet-of-things, 3D/4D printing, Big Data and other how new technologies affects many industries.
With people living increasingly longer lives, medical care from surgeons, physicians, pharmacists and dentists will increase as well. And since the future of healthcare will look very different from what it is today, the medical field may just be the right industry for you, even if being a doctor or nurse is not your calling. Many new technologies will be incorporated into the healthcare industry and we will see things like robotic surgeries and 3D-printed organ implants, to name a few. This means we will be seeing a whole new host of career opportunities, even for jobs that don’t actually exist yet.
While these highly specialized jobs will require equally specialized training an education, a student pursuing an undergraduate biology degree or similar scientific field may be interested in these careers for their future.
1. Healthcare Navigator – Guides patients through the complex medical system of the future
Being sick can be extremely stressful – to yourself, the doctors and nursing staff. But your family and loved ones also have a lot to deal with when you are ill. Technology will make healthcare more and more complex to navigate in the future. We’ll be introduced to bio-printers, electronic pills, 3D-printed medication, surgical robots and DNA manipulation. To make sense of all these new technologies and treatments, and guide the patient as well as family members, healthcare navigators will become indispensible.
2. Life Extension Specialist – Helps people live longer, healthier lives
With the world’s tech giants such as PayPal, Google and Oracle paying hundreds of millions of dollars towards the quest for immortality, we will soon see breakthrough technologies emerging. The problem of aging is actually an engineering problem – now being looked at by medical scientists. It is estimated that we will have overcome human aging by the end of the century, or even within a couple of decades. Technology will offer us a number of ways to tackle aging. We will be able to freeze ourselves, manipulate our DNA and have our failing organs replaced with 3D-printed tissue. A life extension specialist will advise us on the best ways to prolong our life. He will introduce us to the latest technologies, inform us of the various pros and cons and talk about the risks.
3. Bioinformatician – Analyzes data from a wide range of biological fields
Bioinformaticians, also referred to as computational biologists, biometricians or biostatisticians, have been around for a while but their numbers are expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. For those who enjoy working with statistics and science, a career in bioinformatics might just be the perfect plan for a future career. Using dynamic simulation methods, mathematical models, sophisticated software and the Internet, bioinformaticians will gather and analyze information from pharmaceutical developments, genetics and population biology. They may also design 3D models of protein and DNA sequences, design new clinical drug trials or program population growth models.
4. Organ Implant Designer – Designs and prints organs with patient cells
With donor rates dropping for the first time in over a decade, waiting lists for organs are becoming longer and longer. In the US alone, over 120,000 people are waiting for organ donations, with names being added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. Every single day, over 20 patients will die while waiting for a transplant. With the explosive technological developments, 3D-printing is now entering the operating rooms across the world, and the technology will soon alleviate the shortages of organs. 3D-printing is already being used for the manufacturing of dental implants, hearing devices and prosthetics. The fact that the technology enables us to print extremely complex structures will soon allow us to bio-print live tissue and transplantable organs. These organs will most probably be printed using the patient’s own cells, in order to decrease organ rejection. Medical researchers are already growing live tissue to help patients with disfigurements and replacements of body parts or organs. The career prospects for organ implant designers are excellent.
5. Medical Roboticist – Designs robots to assist medical professionals
The future of surgery will see tiny robots entering a patient’s body through small incisions and fixing or removing whatever the surgeon instructs the robot to fix or remove. These tiny robots and other robotic tools are designed and created by medical roboticists and can be used to assist medical professionals in a host of different ways. Besides assisting in surgical procedures, these robots can also diagnose diseases; patients will be able to swallow them to take photographs inside the body and neurosurgical robots will be able to enter the skull to perform various procedures. Then there are social robots, which are already used in nursing homes and hospitals. They assist people with taking their medication, serving food and keeping patients company. Medical roboticists will require some medical training as well as a background in computer science and engineering.
6. Cryopreservation Specialist – Freezes humans or organs to preserve them for the future
Up until now, people wanting to freeze themselves after death have been the subject of ridicule. Their reason for wanting to be preserved, however, is because there is the hope that one day in the future, new technologies will lead to new cures for diseases that are now incurable. This practice is called cryopreservation – the art of deep-freezing a person or his organs (or a pet in some instances). Cryopreservation specialists are the ones who ‘do the freezing’ and bring the people back to life. Currently, cryopreservation methods are used in IVF (in vitro fertilization) to preserve sperm and ova for conception. Currently, chilled organs can only be kept for up to two days. Scientists therefore hope that they will soon be able to freeze complex tissues and organs for an extended period of time until they are ready to be transplanted. When that day comes, cryopreservation specialists will be in high demand.
7. Health Specialties Professor – Trains future medical professionals
With all these new and exciting future careers and job opportunities on the horizon, one has to wonder by whom all these people will be trained. The health specialties professors will most likely consist of researchers or practicing medical specialists who will train and prepare people for careers in medical fields that are in high demand. These careers will comprise physical therapists, nurses, dentists and pharmacists, but also the bioinformaticians and cryopreservation specialists.
8. Medical Scribe – Handles patients’ medical information
Taking notes during patients’ consultations and dictating them to the assistant will soon become a thing of the past. One would assume that EHRs (Electronic Health Records) is the logical next step. This type of record keeping is actually much more time consuming for the physician because the information they need to enter into their computer systems is much more detailed. This results in less time with the patient, which would not be a particularly positive development. This is where a medical scribe would come in. He would join the physician during a consultation and enter the patients’ medical data into the system. The medical scribe would also be responsible for gathering patient information before a consultation as well as do some research and take care of basic correspondence. Obviously, medical scribes will have to have some experience with medical terminology and an understanding of basic medical procedures.
Advances in medical technology and aging population have resulted in the formation of and renewed interest in medical careers. Not only is healthcare growing at a faster rate than most other areas of our economy, careers in medicine have also been ranked among the top five careers. This is because they meet criteria such as employment opportunities, job security, great salary and good work-life balance. Most people who choose a career in healthcare however, do so because they see it as a calling – to make a difference in people’s lives.