Strengthening our talent pipeline to unlock the potential of personalised medicine
Those who work in healthtech will no doubt have attended a conference recently — the autumn schedule is now in full swing. I’ve just returned from an event in Olympia (London), where I found myself comparing the agenda to London Tech Week (LTW). If you haven’t been, it’s a week of events dedicated to bringing together creativity, talent and innovation. The number of women involved wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when considering the agenda, but given the breadth of topics and calibre of speakers, it’s hard not to comment, particularly given my most recent event experience. Senior female tech leaders featured in LTW’s work streams on business, security, innovation, and digital disruption. What an inspiration for women and girls considering their future.
This made me consider my own education and career path, and question why I didn’t consider the healthtech sector from the outset. It largely boils down to the fact that I didn’t know it was an option. When I started out, technology meant computers, which meant a career as a technician. It bore no relation to the exciting opportunities in computer science, engineering and digital innovation.
Research shows that I’m not alone — the number of women choosing STEM subjects is an inherent problem. Last year, The Economist’s glass ceiling index identified that only 17% of those studying computer science in higher education were women — the lowest percentage in any field except for engineering and technology where females make up 15% of enrolments.
What the events at London Tech Week succeeded at doing (and where my education fell down) was making technology exciting, accessible and importantly, applicable to a myriad of careers at the forefront of innovation and UK growth.
Healthcare is one of the sectors where this innovation can achieve some of the greatest benefits to our citizens, communities and society. It faces some of the biggest challenges of any public-sector service; increasing demand on already stretched services, delivered by organisations that are working within an unsustainable spending envelope and a volatile political environment.
Healthtech is offering solutions to this and delivering results.
The Global Digital Exemplar Programme (GDEs) in the UK is a testament to this; recognised for being the most digitally advanced, the trusts’ use of electronic patient records (EPRs) have paved the way for better patient experiences and improved health outcomes.
Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, one of the acute exemplars and a customer of IMS MAXIMS, has made processes for admission, transfer and discharge of patients more efficient and coordinated with the help of real-time bed management and discharge planning. Clinicians are triaging letters online rather than printing them out and also making decisions online for each referral. The trust is also on course to achieve tens of millions of pounds of savings over the length of the contract period.
It’s important for the benefits achieved by Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust and the other GDEs to become commonplace across the NHS. However, the successful deployment of these clinical systems should not be seen as an end in itself. EPRs are what we at IMS MAXIMS call the ‘digital fabric’ — the foundations — of service transformation in healthcare systems across the world.
Unlocking the future of healthcare
It is the aggregation of data from EPRs, interoperating with other clinical systems at a national scale, coupled with medical advances such as genome mapping, that will enable a new era of healthcare — personalised medicine.
Personalised medicine enables healthcare professionals to offer care tailored to a patient’s predicted response or risk to a disease, using medical practices, whole population health trends and an individual’s genetic make-up. It can go so far as helping clinicians provide preventative healthcare. It could lead to a health service that no longer reactively treats a patient’s condition, but considers the individual’s circumstances as a whole to predict and prevent them from getting ill.
It’s an exciting prospect that requires clinical solutions such as EPRs to be adopted at scale and pace, but they aren’t a silver bullet. There are a number of factors that play a role in making this a reality, including having a strong pipeline of talented scientists, technologists and engineers that can implement these changes in the years to come, which brings me full circle. We must make careers in technology exciting, accessible and applicable to sectors such as healthcare.
A lot has changed since I started my career in technology; to name just a few, we now have coding initiatives for children and young people, our own version of Silicon Valley that inspires many, a multitude of events such as London Tech Week dedicated to highlighting the opportunities in the tech sector and networks like One Healthtech UK that support and promote women and diversity in healthtech. However, the statistics on the number of women choosing a career in computer science, engineering and technology remain a concern.
Whilst there is no single solution to this complex problem — as there isn’t with the widespread adoption of technology in the NHS — businesses such as IMS MAXIMS have an important role to play in resolving it. We need to accelerate the change we want to see by making careers exciting and accessible to women, and nurturing an equal business environment.
At IMS MAXIMS the number of female employees is 23% higher than the industry average because we embody the change we want to see across the sector. We invest in talent, not gender, and provide training and support to employees based on their individual needs. It creates an environment that is supportive and rewarding for everyone. Our annual appraisal process, for example, is supported by individual coaching from several external sources, and we choose to use an online training service so that staff can pick and choose their training package and have access to the courses 24/7.
Achieving equality throughout our organisation is important, but it isn’t a numbers game. For us, equality is about investing in performance, to create solutions that deliver for our customers and develop a sustainable organisation that can continue to innovate.
Our drive for equality is by no means over, but we hope our approach and what it has led our business to achieve will inspire other talented people, especially women, to join what is such an exciting and rewarding sector.