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Will a candidate shortage stunt the growth of Digital Health ? Paul Budd

I have been a recruiter in the commercial healthcare market for 15 years. In that time I have witnessed periods of high growth in the medical technology sector but also one of the biggest recessions to hit our economy in living memory. Throughout my tenure and the fluctuating market conditions, one constant has remained – great people are hard to find ! I have worked with some of the World’s largest corporations to pure start up with nothing but a compelling idea and each business suffers their own individual challenges but the main problem being is how to stand out in a crowded market and attract the very best available talent.

We are all well aware of the current wave of growth in the digital health sector alongside the need to embrace technology to reduce costs and improve patient care. The predicted trends show that there is no sign of this revolution slowing This growth will mean the a rapid increase in jobs ( According to Rock Health the number of health IT jobs in the US alone is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018.) which is a great headline but without people filling these vacancies the growth will stunt. As with any thriving and growing business – or industry, great people are at the core of success.

Digital Health is a relatively new market and to many outside of the sector it is an unknown and untested concept. What will attract the best people over more established markets like pharma, medical devices or other technology focussed sectors ? Disciplines like Sales & Marketing, technology development, senior leadership, HR etc are a sought after commodity, and many CEO’s of Digital Health companies I have spoken to recently see hiring as one of the biggest challenges to success they foresee in the next couple of years. Combine this alongside the fact that the economy is starting to recover and many companies are back on the hiring charge there are now more vacancies for candidates to consider. Jobs site Adzuna said there were almost a million vacancies across the country in January 2015, the highest level since before the financial crisis. How will Digital Health continue to flourish and hire the best people in a candidate short market ?

Immediate gut reaction is to throw high salaries at people however research and my own personal experience shows that this isn’t always the answer. Although competitive compensation is part of the equation, great people will always look at the bigger picture – especially in a comparatively new space such as Digital Health. Great people want to work with a company that delivers true value to a customer, that embraces a culture of learning and development and above all feels a part of the company’s future. I worked in software sales recruitment in 2000 and the industry was awash with VC backed start-ups who had plenty of cash in the bank but no real value proposition. This led to people being grossly overpaid and therefore many companies fell into the trap of hiring people who talked a great game but ultimately never delivered because all they wanted was the £££’s. This was a factor in what ultimately caused the bubble to bust.

Companies in Digital Health need to position themselves correctly and first understand what they have and can offer above and beyond the competition. They need to have a clear plan of growth and be able to clearly demonstrate how they will succeed where others may fail. A start-up with limited funds but a fantastic proposition should not feel they are at the bottom of the pecking order just because they cannot match the financial packages of the “bigger boys” or more established brands – they need to think creatively.

Being flexible and looking at the bigger picture will also be a key factor in overcoming the shortage in great candidates. If you are too fixated on a candidates that “must” have this or “must” have that it will only prolong the hiring cycle and run the risk of losing out on stars of the future. As an industry unless we start thinking now about how to position ourselves and “standout” from the crowd in order to attract great people we run the risk of stunting the growth of the Digital Health industry – ultimately effecting our businesses and adoption of technology to improve quality of life for patients