Building a tech workforce for the healthcare and life science industry
From predictive modeling using artificial intelligence to cloud computing, technology plays an enormous role in healthcare and life sciences. But its rapid progression can also leave workers behind, creating a skills gap that negatively affects quality of care for patients and consumers, the pace of R&D, and the industry as a whole.
That is why it is crucial for healthcare and life science organizations to invest in their employees and ensure they have the necessary training and education to contribute to a resilient digital workforce. This is especially true as we prepare for the new normal, a world post-COVID where the acceleration of digital technology will continue to push the use of telemedicine, data interoperability, analytics, cyber security, and cloud computing into overdrive, making the competition for top tech talent fiercer than ever.
Digital transformation kicks into high gear
Even before COVID-19, the rapid progression of technology and automation has prompted many industries to secure a technologically savvy workforce. By 2017, eight out of 10 middle-skill jobs required basic technology skills according to the job market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies, and digital middle-skill jobs represented about 38% of overall job postings. This need for technical skills will only grow as the demand for physical and manual skills decline in lieu of automation. McKinsey & Company estimated in its 2018 Automation and the Workforce of the Future report that through 2030, the time American workers spend on advanced technological skills will increase by 50%, and the need for advanced IT and programming skills will increase by 90% between 2016 and 2030.
In healthcare specifically, the rising use of telemedicine during the pandemic has given a higher level of urgency to the industry’s pressing need for nimble workers who can evolve alongside such progression. In a 2020 report by Deloitte, 50% of healthcare executives surveyed thought that at least a quarter of all outpatient care, preventative care, long-term care, and well-being services will be delivered virtually by 2040. In addition, as the industry shifts to a more consumer-centric model, customers will be empowered to seek health services that are more convenient, personalized, and affordable.
To respond to these critical issues, companies need to invest in their employees to make sure they are comfortable and competent with the latest virtual tools. According to a 2020 report by the business intelligence company ThoughtSpot and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, general frontline workers are expected to be the main user base for digital tools, including communication, collaboration, and self-service analytics tools. As such, frontline health employees would especially benefit from employer upskilling and reskilling training programs.
Data that demands a skilled workforce
One of the biggest areas of need in healthcare and life sciences is rooted in the exponentially growing amount of patient and consumer data available, and the need to analyze and derive insights to support, forecast, and enable personalized care and early interventions. Patients are more aware of the amount of information collected on them, and now expect to be served efficiently and securely based on the data that they make available. Because of this, data management and analysis will fundamentally change the necessary skills required of the current workforce.
This massive coordination and collaboration with patient information has come to be known as the “radical interoperability” of data. An October 2019 analysis by Deloitte predicts that over the next three to five years, organizations will increasingly invest more in cohesive, interoperable systems that will enable patient data to flow freely amongst various stakeholders across the ecosystem, such as hospitals, pharmacies, physicians, health plans, medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, retailers, and makers of consumer wearables.
Shifting to such an undertaking requires an outsized need for skilled talent to maintain system interoperability. About 80% of the tech health executives surveyed in the same Deloitte study said they have already hired data architects to “define their interoperability strategies,” and 73% have a “dedicated and centralized team that oversees interoperability.”
Overcoming the tech industry’s lure on talent
As the quantity of patient and consumer data grows, the demand for adept workers who will manage it will grow as well. Cross-sector digital transformation is creating a need for top tech and digital talent, and every sector is now competing for it. Healthcare and life science organizations are finding themselves vying for talent with the consumer tech industry itself, with big-name giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook luring talent by offering high salaries and compelling employee benefits.
In order to fill the critical tech talent gap, companies should care for their current talent and invest in them to make sure they receive the crucial technical training they need to succeed in the future. By cultivating tech talent from within the workforce, turnover rates would decrease since workers are more likely to stay if they see a path to advancement. In a 2019 LinkedIn report, 94% of employees would remain at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.
Advancing the healthcare and life science industry’s workforce at the pace of digital transformation will continue to be a necessity for organizations. COVID-19 has elevated this issue to new heights, and a seemingly distant problem has now been placed at the front door. Building a robust workforce that is digitally competent and can pivot quickly in a rapidly evolving digital world is imperative for the future of healthcare now more than ever.