Digital Health is a dynamic and evolving industry and the key to its success is great leadership. Here's what to look for.
I was recently debating with a couple of colleagues about which companies were going to make a real difference in healthcare IT over the next five years. It was an intense discussion as we argued about the role of startups vs. big business and the role of investors vs entrepreneurs. All this happened to be against the backdrop of Satya Nadella's one year anniversary as CEO of Microsoft so naturally the conversation turned to leadership.
I've had the good fortune to work predominantly with proactive leaders in the sector so I thought now would be a good time to distil some of the key traits I think any organisation's leaders need to have in order to succeed in this growing market.
1. They're Honest
It sounds very simple but being honest with yourself and your team as a leader about the strengths and weakness of your company's products and strategies is essential for progress. It's very easy to get swept up in the hype and marketing drive around your solutions but staying grounded is the only way to remain cognizant of the challenges ahead.
2. They Lead from the Front
Healthcare IT is all about delivering solutions that empower those on the frontline of clinical care. Great leaders are willing to lead interactions with the clinical community, government and hospital executives rather than trapping themselves in the boardroom or the R&D lab. It also gives leaders insight into the challenges sales and technical staff face day in and day out so they can take appropriate actions to remedy them.
3. They're Team Builders
Having the right mix of expertise within an organisation is essential to drive its growth in the market. Effective leaders in healthcare IT need to be particularly attuned to this as this requires a mix of experts straddling fields including government policy, R&D, implementation, sales & marketing and of course clinical engagement. Great leaders know how to get the balance right and bring in the right experts when they need them.
4. They've got Vision
An obvious but critical point is the fact that great leaders have vision. Now, by that I don't mean they are futurists. I mean they can realistically appraise the requirements of health systems over the coming years and match the evolution of their products to stay ahead of the competition and continuously offer valuable solutions. This often requires innovation but also on-going investment in market R&D to maintain a knowledge base that can be capitalised on in due course.
5. They turn Failure into Success
There are several examples of technological innovations which never gained traction but that never meant that those attempts weren't revisited. A great leader should be able to recognise when a project is going downhill and should be able to pull the plug, re-evaluate and pivot onto a more successful course. This is something startups are fantastic at doing and in my work with larger organisations is an approach I try to introduce, as there are always opportunities beyond the obvious.
Discussing leadership always risks being a cliched subject area but digital health needs it now more than ever. At such an early stage there are already terrific opportunities for companies small and large to achieve traction and impact healthcare positively, but only with the right people leading the charge.