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Diversity will lead the way to success in HealthTech

Article-Diversity will lead the way to success in HealthTech

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HealthTech companies must prioritise diversifying their talent pool to ensure sustainable growth.

The Middle East has experienced phenomenal growth in its healthcare industry over the past decade; and the HealthTech vertical has been key in solidifying the market’s position as a global industry player.

From consumer medical wearables to electronic patient records, or even utilising AI for efficiency and clinical support, the benefits of rapid digitalisation in the healthcare sector are manifold. This optimism can be backed up by data. The e-health market in the Middle East and Africa is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8 per cent from 2019 to 2024, reaching US$1.8 billion, according to the 2020 Global Ventures Digital Health report. Meanwhile, in the MENA region, the HealthTech start-up ecosystem is now worth over US$1.5 billion, a 22 times increase since 2016.

Notably, with the FemTech industry steadily rising, the region’s focus on women’s wellness and health is propelling its transformation into a key FemTech hub. MENA is the fourth largest market globally for FemTech, with its 7 per cent share of the total number of FemTech companies. It follows closely behind the third largest market, Asia (8 per cent).

What healthcare leaders must prioritise to secure success

To make the most out of this expanding HealthTech market in the Middle East and remain competitive, healthcare and HealthTech leaders must overcome these challenges ahead and prioritise certain elements to set their organisations up for success:

  1. Attracting talent from other industries

As the HealthTech industry is still developing compared to more established sectors such as technology, finance, and consumer, the talent required for health innovators can come from other domains including software and cloud-services, as well as other consumer and regulated segments such as retail, online travel, gaming, and financial services. Growth in the industry is powered by digital healthcare innovations—such as increasing accessibility and integration of healthcare delivery—which makes tech talent high in demand. However, the market is plagued by the widespread tech talent crunch and the issue is further compounded due to the lack of skilled in market talent.

Against this backdrop, technologists in HealthTech face an uphill challenge in their digital transformation plans, especially in securing human capital equipped with knowledge of specific domains such as cybersecurity, data and analytics, cloud, and AI. HealthTech companies must prioritise diversifying their talent pool to ensure sustainable growth and cater to specific consumer demographics who are demanding new digital products and services.

Instead of hiring exclusively people with both healthcare domain knowledge and deep technical know-how, curating diverse, multifunctional teams made up of cross-industry experts can be more effective in setting the industry up for success.

Recently, we supported a leading HealthTech provider in the region to expand their leadership team, and in the process, we looked out for candidates with predefined skills and attributes needed to be successful in the roles, as opposed to specific sector expertise. This provided a wider pool of talent and helped shape the mindset of the cofounders when tackling their next major milestone.

  1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion

The boom in FemTech bears testament to the region’s rising demand for accessibility and inclusion. Notably, in the MENA region, the FemTech market is projected to reach US$3.8 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 15 per cent from 2021 to 2031. The emerging FemTech space in the UAE is driven by e-commerce platforms focused on women’s healthcare needs.

While companies in the sector are seeking top tech talent to scale their start-ups, they are not paying enough attention to HealthTech’s main draw as a social leveller to make healthcare more accessible. Heidrick & Struggles has spent an extensive amount of time understanding what motivates and excites professionals currently in the industry. In the vast majority of cases, an executive’s desire to either move to or stay within the HealthTech sector can be categorised into three main buckets – purpose-driven businesses, practical application of digitalisation to drive accessibility of healthcare, or a personal connection based off prior experience. If HealthTech companies tap into these drive factors, we will start to see more world-leading talent move into this sector.

Apart from enticing top talent, steps towards customer-centricity have become ever more crucial and companies need to similarly embody diversity, equity, and inclusion in their boards and workforces. According to Heidrick & Struggles research, top-performing boards tend to have more female board directors than their underperforming counterparts. This is undeniably important with the growing FemTech business in the region. To successfully understand and solve health problems facing women today, organisations need to ensure their boards and employees are sufficiently diverse in gender, backgrounds, and experiences.

In the region, however, we are still noticing a substantial lack of diversity on the boards of SMEs and start-ups. Based on our experiences working with boards in the region, many understand the need to make their boards more diverse but do not have a clear action plan to make any changes in the short-term.

Clear benefits of having diverse and inclusive teams also include bringing more effective solutions to tackle difficult problems, managing risks, and identifying new opportunities for their organisations. Meanwhile, inclusive cultures can improve the resilience of companies, especially in today’s uncertain and volatile times.

Looking ahead

After companies expand their scope in identifying talent and refocus their priorities on diversity, equity and inclusion, a greater challenge lies ahead to ensure success is sustainable. As a growing industry amidst global tech talent shortage, it is imperative that the HealthTech sector prioritises creating organisations where people want to stay for the long term.

There is a bright future ahead for the HealthTech industry, but for firms in the Middle East to compete with global leading counterparts, they must strive to build diverse and inclusive teams across all levels of the organisation. It is also critical for organisations to predefine their own value proposition as an employer with career and learning roadmaps. With this, we will see the sector compete for some of the best talent in the region and beyond.

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Tom Clarke is Principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ Dubai office and a member of the global Technology & Services and Digital Officers practices

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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