Stanford Medicine 2020
Health Trends Report

The Rise of the Data-Driven Physician

A Message from Dean Lloyd Minor

Our 2020 Stanford Medicine Health Trends Report describes a health care sector that is undergoing seismic shifts, fueled by a maturing digital health market, new health laws that accelerate data sharing, and regulatory traction for artificial intelligence in medicine.

To truly understand how this future is taking shape for patients, we felt it was critical to start by asking those who will be directing their care. So, Stanford Medicine conducted a national survey of physicians, residents, and medical students.

What we found boils down to one central idea: physicians expect new technology to transform patient care in the near term, and they are actively preparing to integrate health data — and the technologies that harness it — into the clinical setting. In other words, we are witnessing the Rise of the Data-Driven Physician. Physicians and those in training are now seeking out education in data science disciplines, and they express openness to using emerging sources of patient data as part of routine care.

These developments have significant potential to advance patient care and empower tomorrow’s health care providers to predict, prevent, and cure disease — precisely.

And yet, the promise of this future is not assured. Among those surveyed, few feel “very prepared” to implement emerging technologies in clinical practice. Our survey also shows a future health care workforce that today is grappling with high levels of student debt, poor work-life balance, and administrative distractions — issues that are influencing career choices, including whether to remain in medicine. Educators, health administrators, government officials, and the private sector — now enmeshed in health care delivery —  have distinct opportunities to alleviate these burdens.

The findings presented in this report are just the beginning of an important conversation. As we embark on a new decade, there is no better time to have a discussion about how we can prepare and support tomorrow’s health care providers to rise to their fullest potential.

Lloyd B. Minor, MD
Dean, Stanford University School of Medicine


The 2020 Stanford Medicine Health Trends Report identifies the Rise of the Data-Driven Physician as one of the industry’s most consequential developments — one that has significant implications for patients. To understand this trend, there are four factors to appreciate:

  • An industry under transformation. In 2020, it is clear that the heath care sector is being profoundly altered by a number of trends, from technology advancements, to consumer adoption of novel health services, to policy and regulatory developments. Taken together, these trends place a high premium on new skills that fall outside the traditional domain of health care delivery.
  • Health care providers awake to new developments. The next generation of physicians is developing a broader skillset. Our research found that nearly three-quarters of all medical students and nearly half of all physicians are planning to pursue additional education in data-oriented such as advanced statistics and data science.
  • A transformation gap in health care. Currently, physicians and medical students report low levels of readiness to implement the technologies they believe have the most transformative potential for health care and their patients. While physicians recognize the benefits of many new technologies, education and training currently lag in fully preparing them for these new developments.
  • Under pressure. Even with a new skillset, tomorrow’s physicians face significant practice pressures today that are influencing their decision-making, including which specialties they choose and even whether they will remain in medical practice. Moreover, issues such as private industry getting involved in health care loom over the medical profession. How these trends play out will ultimately determine the future success of the Data-Driven Physician.

These trends and developments present important challenges and considerations for health care stakeholders. What’s clear is that, if they can be successfully navigated, we will witness a revolution in health care, one that will bring significant innovation and data-driven insights to the point of patient care.

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