The Role of The Digital Health Doctor Continues To Expand

Over the past several years, the role doctors play in digital health organizations has been evolving, with their responsibilities shifting from pure clinical work to a mix of entrepreneurial, research-oriented and product development responsibilities that may define the entire company’s purpose for existing.

At the outset, digital health tools were developed to help doctors do their jobs effectively on the next front of healthcare. Back in the day, much of what was presented as digital health technology was really a technical or software development layer that brought routine medical processes online.

Now, however, the work of being a physician in a digital care environment has expanded well beyond that of a digital health product superuser.  Increasingly, their job is to keep digital health products and services aligned with the larger forces affecting medicine as a whole and to spearhead activities that help vendors stay on top of these efforts.

Today, the job of practicing medicine in has expanded in ways that go well beyond managing care, and that calls for new skill sets, according to Anne Latz, chief medical officer at care management vendor Alley.

Some important aspects currently emerging as part of a digital doctor’s work, Latz says, include the following:

  • Data science: Helping data science teams better understand data sets they’re given by providing context
  • User research: Providing user researchers with the information they need to add depth to their interviews with doctors and helping to interpret the findings researchers develop
  • Product development: Reviewing user interface prototypes with design teams to make sure that the prototypes fit well with medical reasoning, language and guidelines
  • Content: Working with editors and researchers to create evidence-based content relevant to the product under development
  • Clinical advocacy: Representing the digital health vendor to important stakeholders such as hospital managers, ethics committees or medical associations
  • Regulatory compliance: Assessing products to offer recommendations that improve the safety and efficacy of new features
  • Market assessment: Leveraging epidemiological data and an understanding of clinical realities to estimate desirability, vi­ability, and feasibility of new strategic approaches

Of course, not all doctors want to take on these functions, nor do they need to do so. Without a doubt, there will always be a need for doctors whose work falls into traditional categories. Physicians don’t have to become data scientists, produce development managers, or regulatory compliance experts to manage patients effectively, nor should they be forced to assume such roles if their heart isn’t in it.

That being said, there are clearly a wide range of interesting work doctors can take on in the digital world which might never have become part of their job description in previous years. For those that do choose to expand their skills and involve themselves more deeply in the business side of digital health, the list of opportunities is long and is likely to keep growing for the foreseeable future.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.