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Career trends in digital health

Nima Jokilaakso, Event Manager at Digital Health Days, gives us a brief about current trends and job opportunities in the digital health sector, as well as some ongoing trends in the industry.

While continental Europe is seeing a high demand for skilled IT expertise, strong Nordic IT nations like Sweden and Finland already have the digital know-how and competence available. What the digital health companies in the Nordic region are looking for is personnel with cross-disciplinary understanding, especially in the sales department.

“Small to large-sized Nordic firms in all areas of the digital health industry are more and more seeking skillful vendors who understand IT as well as the healthcare sector,” says Nima Jokilaakso.

Another trend is a change in recruitment methods.

“Many of the companies in the digital health sector are small ones and have thus far mainly recruited new staff through the network of family and friends. As their business continues to grow they are now also starting to seek personnel within other domains, to find the right competence.”

The yin and yang of digital health business models

Lately there has also been a tendency towards a stronger connection between hardware and software. There no longer needs to be a choice between B2B and B2C – investors are instead more prone to look for companies that combine the two, reports Nima Jokilaakso.

“Companies are starting to go for products aimed both at public healthcare that requires more investments and at purely commercial, consumer products.”

Consumer-driven healthcare will be one of the main topics during this year’s Digital Health Days conference in September. A field that has great possibilities but also implies challenges for the companies.

“The credibility aspect has always been an issue and is something that the industry is continuing to struggle with. The ongoing Theranos scandal and its effect on the healthtech market is a clear sign of that.”

Need for more transparency

The rise and fall of the US blood analysis company Theranos has featured in the headlines for some time now. In 2003, 19-year-old Elizabeth Holmes founded the firm that launched a new method of blood analysis that was going to revolutionize the blood analysis market and make blood testing easy, affordable and accessible to the public. Seven years later Theranos was valued at 1 billion US Dollar and Holmes became the youngest woman to hit Forbes’ list of the richest people in America. But in 2015, news about the company’s questionable testing methods started to come out (only a fraction of the tests that Theranos offered were made using their self-developed hardware, Edison, when a former employee disputed the precision in Edison’s results, inaccurate testing results and multiple deficiencies in sample handling during testing were reported, and together with Therano’s secrecy regarding the company’s operations, the firm went from great to troubled. Reports followed that questioned the accuracy and effectiveness of Therano’s technology, and the story illustrates the need for health technology companies to be more open about their activities and product efficacy.

“This is a real change of trend when it comes to the lack of transparency that has permeated the IT industry thus far, where companies have not seen the importance of being open about work procedures,” says Nima Jokilaakso. “The regulations are however much more strict for those operating in the life science market, which also includes the emerging healthtech companies.”

A part of the problem is again a competence issue, Nima notes.

“Expertise in life science and health care is crucial to have in all parts of the business, even in the advisory board of the company, which is often comprised of people with financial backgrounds. The Theranos scandal shows how important it is to have life science competence in each part of the organization.”

Effects of Brexit?

Nima Jokilaakso spends much of his time in London, and speaking about global digital trends and effects, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has created discussions in all industries, including the life science market. What the aftermath of Brexit will result in for the British, European and Nordic digital health market is so far uncertain. Nima Jokilaakso doubts that it will have any considerable practical consequences. However, he points out that the fear itself of possible effects could mean difficulties in doing business.

“London is, after Silicon Valley, the leading global business center for digital health, with a huge consumer market at its feet. So far there is no other region in Europe that is at the same level. But it is important not to underestimate people’s concerns related to Brexit and what it could imply for the industry.”

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