New Healthcare Roles Are Emerging to Meet Changing Care Needs

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

As medicine evolves, new types of doctors and nurses are emerging to meet our system’s changing needs. In some cases, these clinicians are in new specialties that didn’t exist until recently, and demand for some of these physicians is already high. The Association of American Medical Colleges (2019) identified these five new physician specialties that match where healthcare is headed:

  • Cancer immunologist - This doctor will be adept at harnessing a patient’s individual immune system to fight cancer while avoiding or treating immune system overreactions and treatment-triggered diseases.
  • Nocturnist - Increasingly medically complex patients need the care continuity of doctors who practice hospital medicine primarily at night, a key addition to the level of safety and service offered.
  • Lifestyle medicine physician - 80% of healthcare costs are connected to care for chronic diseases, and 80% of chronic disease is related to lifestyle choice. A lifestyle medicine specialist oversees a patient’s food choices, exercise, sleep, stress levels, and ability to connect with others, whether in a primary care environment, lifestyle medicine clinic, or residential care facility. Demand to sit for this certification exam is exploding.
  • Clinical informatics – This specialist collects and analyzes patients’ health information and applies those insights to improve patient health. Growth in this area is related to provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the proliferation of electronic health records (EHRs). The goal is to use the volumes of medical data now being generated to make better clinical decisions and guide research efforts.
  • Medical virtualist – This physician provides telehealth services, a sector of healthcare delivery that is expected to rise 30% each year between 2017 and 2022. Early uses include second-opinion consults, as well as telepsychiatry and telestroke services. Health systems are just beginning to add telehealth to their service mix, for primary care triage, specialty consults, and virtual rounding. The ability to create a successful telehealth experience for patients will be a key competency for this specialty (AAMC, 2019).

In a complementary development, nursing roles that are emerging include care coordinators, virtual care nurses, legal nurse consultants, nurse researchers, forensic nurses, and a full array of nursing roles related to informatics and the outcome-focused use of healthcare data.


AAMC, “Five emerging medical specialties you’ve never heard of — until now,” Association of American Medical Colleges, N.D., Retrieved at https:// www.aamc.org/news-insights/five-emerging-medical-specialties-you-ve-never-heard-until-now.

This blog post is an excerpt from the longer HealthStream article, Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade in Healthcare. Focused on the people providing healthcare, HealthStream is committed to helping customers address and solve big problems in our industry. From hospitals to long-term care and across the care continuum, there are challenges stemming from demographic changes, governmental mandates, and the need for higher care quality. Download the webinar, Ten Healthcare Trends for 2020, where Robin Rose, Vice President, Healthcare Resources Group, HealthStream discusses this information in detail. HealthStream is dedicated to improving patient outcomes through the development of healthcare organizations' greatest asset: their people. Learn more about our healthcare workforce development solutions.