Opinions vary about which country or market will be first to take advantage of the health tech data storm but rest assured it is here. At Odgers Berndtson the technology, healthcare and life sciences practices have been closely watching the market develop and the rapid growth of this new sector. The convergence of technology has not only brought our internal teams together but it has created a whole new cluster of companies joining long standing players who are looking to benefit from the massive volumes of big data that exist.

We can expect many more companies to move into the space to join Nike, Google, Vodaphone, AliveCor, Philips and IMS Health. So what is driving this expansion?

Four key motivators:

  • The need for countries to manage healthcare spending
  • The rise of hand held devices able to record, store and send real time wearer information 
  • Increased spending in the sports supplements, monitoring and well-being markets
  • Move towards paperless eco-friendly systems


Healthcare spending is a concern for all countries and as the average age of populations get older the demands on each system are likely to rise. In the UK, the latest NHS figures put the cost of a bed for a day at £225 and if you are admitted to A&E the costs range from £59 to £117 per admittance.  The technology is here to help and according to the Patients Association both patients and their relatives say that they want to be cared for in their own home or locality. HealthTech should provide an alternative way for individuals to take control of their own care helping keep the sick, and healthy, out of hospital. In an age when your fridge can tell you when to buy milk will it be so long before the appliance reminds you to take your vitamins/medicine or reminds you to get your prescription delivered with your shopping order?

Since the iPad exploded onto the market we are now surrounded by intelligent devices and they are becoming embedded into our lives. Many industries are adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes in the work environment. These devices already have apps and connectivity to allow you to monitor your temperature, blood/sugar content or heart rate.  A recent study by Cisco partners on BYOD practices stated that the education industry has the highest percentage of people using BYOD for work at 95%. If education is an early adopter you can imagine the impact this will have when this wave hits the work place.

Health organisations and agencies, including the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, are beginning to make use of predictive analytics of social data to monitor emerging situations like each season’s influenza outbreak.  The CDC is among agencies that now use social media surveillance in the service of public health. They have begun to utilise social insights gleaned from Google Flu Trends and MappyHealth – predictive tools that take collective web searches and tweets on flu-related symptoms and correlate the data on regional maps. Deciding to view the latest flu trends data or checking the most recent viral outbreak before your next flight is already at our fingertips.
But there are challenges ahead that will have a direct impact on the speed of adoption. Health systems take a long time to change as our recent article attests, we are still stuck in some old models.  The pace of change will be influenced by those making the decisions. So what generation has this power?  Today, it is often the case that organisations will be made up of four generations of staff. It is not a new phenomenon to have different age groups in companies, but until relatively recently they were not expected to work directly together. Nowadays, organisations know that a diverse team can be more than the sum of its parts. Generational synergy therefore, may be a key factor in determining the success of companies in the future and the effective uptake of HealthTech technologies.

Multi-generational teams bring new communication challenges. People of a similar age and outlook communicate in the same way. Their lives and experiences tend to have been shaped by the same events and circumstances.  The four generations in the workplace are not simply younger versions of each other, their values and attitudes have been formed in response to widely different circumstances and historical events. People trying to solve the cross-generational conundrum refer to ‘Matures’, ‘Baby Boomers’, ‘Generation X’ and ‘Generation Y/Millenials ’, and define them by the major events and prevailing attitudes of their formative years.

  • Mature - Before 1946 - Punch the clock
  • Baby Boomers - 1946-1964 – Presenteeism
  • Generation X - 1965-1982 - I’ll get the job done wherever I am
  • Generation Y/Millenials - 1983-1998 - It’s 5pm, I’ve got another life to get to

As Emma Reynolds, co-founder of Ask Gen Y said, ‘We’ve never had to memorise a phone number and we’ve never had to get off the sofa to change channel on the TV.’  While they may be the youngest in the workplace, they can have valuable skills and are the early adopters. They live in a connected world of mobile phones, instant messaging, social networking on the internet and even the rather archaic, to them, medium of email.

Perhaps the sea change will be driven by “celebrity” news. Clinics across the UK reported a dramatic increase in the number of requests for BRCA genetic testing and preventative mastectomies following Angelina Jolie's announcement last May having undergone a double mastectomy and the ensuing media follow up.  To facilitate early adoption it will need the right decision makers at the helm of businesses and organisations. These leaders will need to be alive and open to disruptive and innovative thinking and be comfortable in tailoring their communication style to suit their target audience and prepared to take some measured risks.  As ever the success of the HealthTech in the next few years will be driven by people.

Chris Hamilton

Chris is the Head of the Life Science Practice in the UK. He was previously a Partner in the Global Healthcare Practice where he led many of the most complex and challenging leadership searches acr...

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