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Expanding new avenues

Changing dynamics in the healthcare sector is leading to fresh opportunities of work for aspirants.

Pratima Jain | New Delhi |

Increasing use of digital technology and changing dynamics of disease incidence have initiated path breaking changes in the field of healthcare. From use of robotic computing in surgeries to prevalence of data analytics in healthcare to digital diagnostic tools, widespread usage of ICT has contributed to improving outcomes and reducing time and cost of healthcare delivery. On the other hand, increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases has put spotlight on the need for prevention mechanisms to improve health and wellness. Rising life expectancy is also resulting in an increasingly aging population.

These changing dynamics in the healthcare space are spawning new opportunities of work. There has been a surge in demand for IT executives in healthcare in recent years. At the same time, the rise of the concept of holistic care, integrated medicine and emphasis on improving quality of life of patients has created the need for a new breed of healthcare providers such as nutritionists, rehabilitation experts, therapists, genetic councillors, and homecare providers.

A large number of Science graduates are today making careers for themselves in allied healthcare by taking up courses in radiology, nutrition and physiotherapy. Here are some emerging options in the field of healthcare.

IT experts: With digital technology becoming the backbone of most fields, no industry can do without the support of IT professionals. Digitising the system of appointments, online delivery of diagnostic services and creation of digitally enabled services such as ICUs are emerging as top priorities for hospitals today as they work to improve health outcomes and patient experience

Digital systems to monitor and report vital health statistics of people with diabetes and other chronic conditions and creation of apps and wearable devices for the same are another area where healthcare organisations are investing big time. As hospitals and other healthcare organisations incorporate digital technology into their systems, there will continue to be a surge in demand for IT experts.

With greater integration of technology in every domain of healthcare, new specialised career options such as 3D printing specialists are also likely to emerge in the near future.

Physical therapists: Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who work with patients suffering from pain or restricted movement on account of injury, stroke, paralysis or surgery. In patients with chronic arthritis, physical therapists help prevent or limit loss of mobility or range of motion by prescribing required exercises and therapy. These experts are critical to the rehabilitation process of patients with injuries, fractures or bone and joint related surgeries. They play a significant role in helping restore movement, function and quality of life. Physical therapists work in different settings, including hospitals, clinics, in occupational environments as well as homes. They also work closely with athletes to help prevent injuries or restore proper movement in case of an injury.

Today, with increasing emphasis on holistic care the role of physical therapists is closely intertwined with that of physicians. And this demand will continue to peak in the near future as more and more hospitals and wellness centres come up around the country.

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians: Cardiovascular diseases have today become the leading cause of mortality in India. Understandably, the role of doctors, cardiologists as well as technological experts is emerging as a prominent one. Cardiovascular technicians are allied health professionals who work closely with cardiologists to help diagnose and treat heart diseases. They help to conduct ECGs, prepare patients for angioplasties and cardiac catheterizations while closely monitoring their vital statistics such as heart rate and blood pressure during the procedures. In a nutshell, they play a very crucial role in the healthcare sector.

Medical imaging technicians: The world of medical diagnostics is today a parallel field in medicine that plays a vital role in ensuring successful treatment. The use of medical imaging technology such as X-Rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI etc has increased significantly in recent years with greater emphasis on evidence based medicine even as improvement in digital imaging technology is allowing diagnosis with greater precision.

Understandably, the field of radiology and medical imaging is witnessing a rapid surge with increasing demand for proficient and well qualified technicians. Radiographers and imaging technicians are equipped with the technological skills to handle imaging equipment and the interpersonal skills necessary for patient care. They work in hospitals as well as private diagnostic facilities which have mushroomed across the urban landscape.

Nutritionists: Rising incidence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular diseases has in recent years put special focus on the need to adopt healthy lifestyles and eating habits. Making healthy lifestyle choices includes consuming a healthy balance of nutrition rich foods and increasing physical activity is critical to preventing and managing chronic diseases and lifestyle disorders. Doctors are increasingly referring patients to nutrition experts who can help make the right food choices and prevent chronic diseases while managing existing conditions.

Health data scientists: Data scientists or data analysts are professionals whose demand has surged in recent years. They are essentially tasked with the objective of pulling out meaningful information from a sea of random data. In the field of healthcare, data scientists are increasingly becoming relevant.

With an increasing number of hospitals working to maintain at least some form of electronic health records and wearable devices that collect health data from thousands of users becoming common, we will soon find ourselves sitting on piles of random meaningless figures.

Using programming and coding skills to analyse this data and derive valuable insights from it can be very useful for improving health outcomes. Insights collected can help increase accuracy and efficiency of diagnostics as well as improve epidemiological understanding of diseases.