Anatomy and data analysis begin to intermingle in the same classroom. The digital advance in which the world has been immersed has forced the faculties of Medicine in Spain to include a brushstroke of cutting-edge technology: from robotics to 3D printing, through the use of virtual reality and telemedicine. The challenge is to train the doctors of the future. The task, however, is not easy.
“The Spanish university is very inertial,” says Joaquín Gea, dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF). “It takes a lot to make changes, but there are already new study plans,” he adds. Above all, says the expert, more and more emphasis is being placed on telemedicine. The provision of health services through the use of information technologies has been one of the trends that has gained strength during the pandemic. Movement restrictions and minimizing the exposure of patients to the virus has led to the fact that in some autonomous communities of the country, 70% of the consultations that were previously carried out in person were made virtual, says the Digital Consumer 2020 survey carried out by Accenture .
Today, patients can transmit biometric data from devices they carry with them, such as heart rate monitors or blood pressure bracelets. In turn, health workers can access patient information through a control panel or an assistance system that collects data and allows users to see the status of users in near real time. It is there that teaching in analysis and interpretation gains importance. But much of the training that is required to read these data is not taught in the university degree, but is acquired through specialization in masters and subsequent courses, explains Francisco Javier Chorro Gascó, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry from the University of Valencia (UV).
A classroom clinic
The Skills Laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Barcelona is full of technology: from 3D printers to virtual reality systems. Here, undergraduate and graduate students can put their medical skills to work. The trial and error formula is allowed. Ricard Valero, co-director of the Laboratory, explains that today, much more than before, students need spaces like this. “They are digital natives with different skills than those of students a decade ago.” The objective of the laboratory is that the doctors of the future learn to master the tools that exist at the clinical level. “In the end, technology does not cure, it does not know medicine … it has to be used correctly for it to make sense,” says Valero.
The healthcare sector is getting smarter. In the next four years, for example, the industry will turn to more devices connected to humans (internet of things), the use of information analysis, both for hospital management and research (big data) and artificial intelligence (the use of algorithms that help make decisions about a diagnosis, for example). This is how the report has warned The future of jobs, published by the World Economic Forum. But perhaps these new tasks are not performed by medical professionals.
Today, experts in these technologies (engineers and computer scientists) are seizing the opportunity. Currently, one of the most demanded profiles are the architects and engineers of big data, explains Laura Campos, Healthcare Manager at Spring Professional, part of Grupo Adecco. And also the data scientists, in charge of creating the algorithms that will be applied to the information, and data analysts, who close the cycle by analyzing and visualizing the result, are in vogue. For Arnau Valls, Innovation Engineer at Sant Joan de Déu Children’s Hospital and an expert in 3D printing, the hospitals of the future will have to focus on the development of multidisciplinary teams.
In the end, technology does not cure, it does not know medicine … it has to be used correctly to make sense
Ricard Valero, coordinator of the Skills Laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Barcelona
At least that is happening in the application of 3D printing, one of the sectors that has experienced the most growth in recent years. “In any case, healthcare professionals must know how to handle and manage these tools from a user point of view, rather than from a purely technical point of view,” Campos warns.
A booming profession
In the field of research, one of the fastest growing careers is medical genetics or clinical genetics. From a medical point of view, the specialists in this branch deal with the study of genetic diseases from both the hereditary and congenital point of view. But they can also diagnose and treat all kinds of pathologies that have a genetic basis, according to a report by Infojobs. In the same way, they carry out prevention tasks, informing patients and relatives about the risks they have of developing a certain disease based on their genetic history.
This profession is closely related to healthcare. But before entering it, in general, students have to complete a degree in Biology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Health Biology, Medicine or related degrees. Spain is the only country in the European Union without the health specialty of clinical genetics.
The last country in the region to approve it was Greece in February 2018. That is, when a medical student decides to face the MIR (Internal Resident Physician, the specialist training system), they cannot opt for genetics. “This is a loss of economic opportunities, because what is being promoted is not that there is medical care specialized in clinical genetics, but rather an economic sector,” says Manuel Corpas, director of the University Expert program in clinical and personalized Genetics at the University La Rioja International (UNIR). Corpas, also scientific director of Cambridge Precision Medicine, indicates that the only way for a doctor to study this branch is through courses, masters, doctorates.
How many vaccines have been developed in Spain? We are lagging behind in current research
Javier de las Rivas, Bioinformatics and Genomics Research Group of the CSIC
For Javier de las Rivas, member of the Bioinformatics and Genomics Research Group of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), this void that exists has been reflected in this health crisis. In the development of the vaccine and in the analysis of the virus variants there is a genetic study and the use of technological tools such as big data and nanotechnology. “Tell me, how many vaccines have been developed in Spain?” He asks. “We are falling behind in the current investigation,” ditch.
But this profession has not only been fundamental these days. He has also gained weight to fight diseases like cancer. The key lies in investing to advance this type of profession, says Marta Puyol, director of Biomedical Research at the Scientific Foundation of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC). In a country where R&D is stuck (in 2019 1.5% of GDP was allocated, according to the INE, which means half the European average) the challenge is enormous. “It is urgent to recognize the specialty of clinical genetics and develop an accredited master’s degree in genetic counseling to be able to incorporate into the services of specialist hospital centers”, Consuelo Martín de Dios, managing director of the Roche Institute Foundation.
The digital transformation process in which we are immersed has meant that many of the jobs that we know have been modified due to the arrival of new technologies. “Some of them have adapted and others are disappearing,” explains Alexandra Hernández, Director of Talent at Santander Universities and Universia España. And in the case of the health sector it will not be the exception. The proportion of workers, worldwide, at risk of displacement in the sector is around 10.6%, according to the analysis of the World Economic Fund.
As a consequence, to maintain an employable profile at this time it is more than necessary to continue optimizing talent with new skills (upskilling) or train them in new areas of performance (reskilling), highlights Hernández.
Banco Santander is committed to lifelong learning (Learning throughout life). “We consider that we currently have the opportunity to continue learning throughout our professional lives and above all we have the possibility of reorienting ourselves and being able to adapt without problem to what the market demands”, highlights the Universia expert. To this end, Santander Universities have launched several training programs open to anyone regardless of their age and level of studies through the entity’s website www.becas-santander.com. For example, the Santander Tech | Reskilling in Data Analytics – Ubiqum Code Academy.