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Meet Your Match: Breaking Into the Healthcare Industry in a Tech Role

General Assembly
March 2, 2023

Across industries, the ability to work faster, cheaper, and without flaw is greatly enhanced by technology—yet, in the healthcare industry, these improvements mean the difference between life and death for billions of patients worldwide. So if you’re keen to make an impact in the lives of individuals—and willing to pick up a few tech skills to make it happen—the healthcare industry is happy to have you.

Just as quickly as big tech companies let workers go, places like Highmark Health scooped them up, adding 4,962 tech workers last March alone. More recently, health insurance company Humana posted 4,951 jobs, while Elevance Health sought to fill 1,751 open positions. UnitedHealth has added 10,000 new roles to their fleet of 36,000 tech workers over the last three years. And these are just a few examples of the many healthcare employers ready to take a big, bold leap with tech.

What Makes Healthcare a “Tech” Industry?

From electronic medical records to surgical robots, tech’s impact on healthcare is growing.

  • Hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and laboratories alike rely on the work of software engineers and data analysts to improve staffing, productivity, and care.
  • Data scientists continue to push the boundaries of quantum computing to reach breakthroughs in disease epidemiology, drug discovery, and digital therapeutics.
  • UX designers develop apps, websites, and devices that empower patients to take charge of their health and wellness in new, intuitive, convenient, and fun ways. 

Here are three key trends that have evolved over the past decade to make healthcare a truly “tech” industry:

Electronic Data 

When you go to the doctor’s, you probably don’t think twice about signing your provider the right to contact you electronically with details about your visit. But think about this for a moment: in 2009, only 16% of hospitals used Electronic Health Records (EHR). Within five years, approximately 80% had gone digital.

Thanks to EHR, nurses report reduced workload, better collaboration with coworkers, improved accuracy, and enhanced patient safety. Increased centralization and efficiency also improves patient access to medical information, and allows clinicians to perform meta-analysis much quicker—so they can offer better care. 

Health Apps

Patient interest in health education has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade—and they’re looking for information right in the palm of their own hands. The total global market for healthcare apps rose from $2.4 billion in 2017 to just over $40 billion in 2020. If this growth continues at the current trajectory, the market could reach $125.32 billion by 2028.

The availability of trusted health information online and in-app keeps patients connected to healthcare providers, sharing important health information like test results or drug prescriptions quickly, while alleviating the need for patients to hold on the phone, travel long distances, or take time off work for appointments. Beyond portal apps, the market for fitness, sleep, and nutrition tracking, mindful meditation, and health monitoring remains robust—projected to grow in global value from $1.1 billion in 2021 to $15.2 billion by 2028.

Mobile Monitoring and Telemedicine

The first wireless heart monitor was implanted into a U.S. patient in 2009. Soon thereafter, hospitals that invested in remote monitoring saw readmission rates for heart disease patients decrease from 25 to 2%. Since then, a number of tests have migrated from doctor’s offices and labs to the comfort of the patients’ own homes. as wireless connected monitoring devices enable patients to send their weight, blood pressure, sugar levels, heart rate, and other measures directly to healthcare providers.

With the ability to track key metrics from home, more patients are able to converse with their physicians over video chat, rather than scheduling in-person consultations. Over the past handful of years, telehealth has greatly reduced the cost of healthcare, while expanding access to top-notch care, particularly in rural areas.  

Why are Tech Roles Important in Healthcare?

“There is a silver lining in big tech’s cloud of restructuring,” according to Forbes last year, “and it’s in the healthcare industry.” Healthcare companies urgently need tech talent to create platforms that problem-solve, build systems that unite data from disparate sources, and redesign the patient experience. 

If we learned one lesson from the global pandemic of 2020, it’s that “we must grasp the clear

opportunities that the powerful pairing of data science and technology provides to not only reshape our sector, but also to create better experiences for patients and physicians,” explains Bertrand Bodson, Chief Digital Officer at Novartis. “At a time when it still takes 12.5 years and $2.5 billion to bring a drug to market, it has never felt so critical that we embrace this powerful pairing.” In other words, the moment to reimagine medicine is here—and you can be a part of something big.  

You’ll find tech workers embedded in a variety of healthcare settings—from pharmaceutical companies, biotech laboratories, and medical equipment manufacturers, to healthcare facilities, consumer health product manufacturers, and managed care organizations. In the healthcare industry, tech talent can find opportunity, purpose, and skills alignment. 

Imagine the Possibilities with a Tech Role in Healthcare

From crafting code to deciphering data sets, there are many paths to shaping the future of healthcare. You might consider these highly desirable tech roles in the space: 

  • Software engineers: Healthcare is one of the top industries hiring software engineers, with 63% of hospitals and 52% of healthcare providers citing short supply. Software engineers are needed to develop telehealth solutions, health and fitness apps, security solutions, patient portal interfaces, monitoring and diagnostic tools, genome sequencing systems, and whatever groundbreaking innovations the mind can conceive.    
  • Data analysts: The global healthcare analytics market is expected to reach $96.90 billion by 2030, producing a vast number of jobs for analysts eager to solve major world challenges in disease epidemiology, treatment innovation, and patient outcomes. Health data analysts manage and interpret clinical trials, patient outcomes, lab results, and demographics information used in government databases. According to Forbes, nurses can get a 27% pay increase by leveling up to data analyst roles. 
  • UX designers: Since 2013, the number of consumers using digital fitness and health tracking tools increased by one-quarter, while the number of virtual office visits more than doubled. As medical devices, apps, and online portals enhance patient experiences, a designer’s eye is necessary to ensure fair and equitable access to healthcare. They may develop the interface for a digital blood glucose monitor, a cycling app, or telehealth software, for instance. Given the explosive growth in consumer-facing healthcare technologies, the demand for convenience, usability, and engagement will only increase. 

Is the power and potential to shape our species’ ability to survive and thrive for generations to come what gets you out of bed each morning? You might follow the future of healthcare tech down a number of promising paths, such as:

Artificial Intelligence

AI algorithms with the ability to mine electronic health records offer limitless future potential. For instance, Atomwise used a supercomputer to quickly search for safe medicines that were likely to make effective Ebola treatments. Google’s DeerMind outperformed radiologists in cancer screenings with its ability to reduce false-positives by 5.7% and false-negatives by 9.4%. 

Virtual Reality  

Working with AppliedVR and Samsung Gear, the digital health research team at Cedars-Sinai Hospital is exploring ways to improve patient experience by using VR headsets that transport people beyond the four walls of their hospital rooms into “novel, positive, and emotionally enriching environments” where they feel less pain and heal faster. VR also holds potential for surgeons-in-training, women in labor, and patients undergoing lengthy rehabilitations.

Wearable Sensors

The Fitbit launched a new era of patient empowerment, as consumers are now able to track daily energy expenditure and sleep quality. The Muse headband uses real-time biofeedback to help wearers refocus, meditate better, and improve their rest. Move ECG (which detects atrial fibrillation) and the Omron HeartGuide (which measures blood pressure) are part of the rapidly ballooning wearables industry that shows consumers are eager for convenient, private, and personalized healthcare. Even beyond the current consumer market, physicians can use tricorder devices like the MedWand or CheckMe Pro to help with remote monitoring and care for vulnerable or hard-to-reach populations. 

Genome Sequencing 

Illumina’s goal is to bring the cost of sequencing an entire genome down to $100, paving the way to personalized medicine—the “Holy Grail” of healthcare. Individuals will essentially receive a road map to understanding their bodies—revealing whether they have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases, which drugs will or won’t work, and how to fix themselves should they become sick. Companies like Habit and Atlas Biomed are already offering services like personalized diets and preventative medicine action plans based on genetic coding work.

Drug Development 

Currently, drug development is costly and time-consuming—a situation long overdue for change. Companies like Verge Genomics, BenevolentAI, Ardigen, and Deep Genomics are developing new approaches based on artificial intelligence and data science modeling that will soon upend the pharmaceutical industry. UK-based Exscientia pairs patients with drugs based on their unique biochemistries—and uses machine learning to dream up new drugs for clinical trials. With synthetic biosensors referred to as “organs on a chip,” researchers are able to get a better glimpse into the inner workings of the cells that will help them crack the code on how to synthesize proteins, create non-opioid pain medications, and treat complex protein-interactive diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, online pharmacies like Rx Outreach bring down the cost of prescriptions by bargaining directly with manufacturers as an insurer might.

Nanotechnology

We could soon see nanodevices delivering targeted and minimally-invasive treatments. Already, the National Health Service test drives colonoscopies that use pill-sized cameras instead of invasive scopes; MIT researchers monitor ulcers through ingestible electronic pills; and Grapheal monitors wounds with a smart patch. In the future, nanodevices may be able to take biopsies, deliver medicine directly to a cell, or perform microsurgery.   

Robotics 

While robot-assisted surgery has been around for more than a decade, we’ve only barely scratched the surface of what robots can do in healthcare. In 2019, a 28-year-old man became the first tetraplegic to control a robotic exoskeleton with his mind, which enabled him to walk. Robots can assist healthcare providers in countless ways, whether it’s to lift an elderly patient into bed or lend an ear to a lonely senior in a nursing facility

3D Printing

Instead of waiting for donor tissue, what if your healthcare provider could simply print it for you? While this may sound like science fiction fantasy, it’s already happening at research institutes around the world. 3D-printed polypills have been used for more than a decade to combine multiple medications into one convenient dose for patients managing multiple chronic conditions. In 2019, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY used 3D modeling and printing technology to create skin with working blood vessels for severe burn victims. Organizations like Refugee Open Ware and Not Impossible teach people living in war-torn regions how to print their own prosthetics. 

Use GA as your tech skill stepping stone into healthcare

As you consider making a big, bold leap into healthcare, consider the story of Stephanie Johnson. She’d spent years as a diabetes educator and dietitian, counseling individual patients at a Denver community clinic. Her desire to make a bigger impact led her to pursue a UX design bootcamp. Today she improves workflows for clinicians to improve their quality of life and their ability to help all patients more effectively.

Whether you have previous tech experience or not, General Assembly has a fast-track program that can bring you up to speed with the most in-demand healthcare tech skills. With a flexible schedule and robust mentor support, you can confidently pursue a new direction without ever missing a beat. In fact, many former nurses and healthcare workers are making the crossover into tech careers. Over 60,000 program graduates have made their move. Now it’s your turn.

Wondering if a healthcare career might be love at first byte? Take our Tech Industries “Meet Your Match” Quiz to find out!

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