Why Tech, Not Medicine, is the Most In-Demand Expertise for Healthcare Executives in 2019

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By James Philip

The healthcare industry is one of the most volatile there is, being at the mercy of politics and a shaky economy even though it is such a vital service. Most of the conversation around healthcare focuses on patient care, and what healthcare actually costs, but it also bears consideration that the people who run the business side of things make a huge difference to how a hospital or healthcare provider ultimately performs.

That’s why the way executive recruiting is done in the healthcare space has to evolve along with the industry itself, which is something JMJ Phillip noticed is happening at a rapid pace. 

For a long time, healthcare executives were required to have a medical background as well as progressive experience in leadership and management. Physicians who no longer wished to practice could move into administration armed with knowledge of the ins and outs of patient care and learn more of the operational skills they needed. 

Now, as medical records, hospital data, insurance and billing have become digitized, Big Data has emerged as a driving force in not just how healthcare organizations take care of people but also in how they operate from day to day. Data analysis can deliver insight into areas of waste, ways to reduce costs, more efficient ways to operate, all of which can help administrators improve services and stay profitable.

These days, executive recruiters for healthcare organizations are not just looking for years of experience in the medical field; they want to know that the candidates they place at the top of these organizations don’t just understand the importance of data but also know how to wield it to make things better.

Some organizations, especially those with a focus on advanced medical technology and digital operations, are tasking their recruiters with finding a C-Level data scientist to fill their leadership roles instead of veteran physicians and administrators.

So does that mean that those medical professionals with three or four decades under their belts are now obsolete in the executive job market? 

No it definitely does not. The years spent honing medical skills and treating patients are still invaluable to the leadership of any healthcare organization, as are years spent running things in an administrative capacity. However, years of experience don’t necessarily translate to value if your experience isn’t relevant to the needs of the organization at this moment.

And at this moment, in 2019, healthcare organizations need data whizzes…ideally, who are also doctors and effective managers too. It’s a tall order for anyone to fill, and it may be surprising to know that recruiters are prioritizing the data whizzes over the doctors.

That shift in priorities has catalyzed a few changes for job seekers in the healthcare market.

For one, it gives younger candidates an advantage they hadn’t really seen before in a profession that values tenure. With a focus on data science skills, a younger physician could rise through the ranks more quickly and potentially surpass older physicians with more years of experience but less knowledge of those potentially more valuable skills.

For another, it lights a fire under executives who have been counting on years of experience to keep them afloat no matter where the currents of the job market flow. We’ve heard from multiple executives that they have a hard time even getting interviewed now when just ten years ago they might have walked right into the same job on title and tenure alone. 

What that means is that even healthcare executives with lengthy resumes should think about making sure those resumes feature updated and valuable skills. And they shouldn’t wait until they’re behind the eight ball looking for a new job; they should start seeking out new opportunities to gain skills and certifications in data science and technology immediately. That will not only help them do their current jobs better but also make them more marketable when the time comes to make a move.

Healthcare tech hasn’t reached the point where all doctors and administrators will be required to be data scientists too, but we’re not far off from that. The more medical executives and aspiring leaders can blend the data scientist with the doctor, the more suited they will be to lead the healthcare institutions of 2019 and beyond.

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