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Consumers want connected medical devices, but demand for digital experts could put further strains on the talent pool for medtech

This week, my colleagues and I are attending AdvaMed’s annual MedTech Conference. Participants will hear about the latest innovations, such as new digital products that incorporate the latest advances in wireless technology and increasingly powerful computing capabilities for generating clinical and economic insights. But I worry the industry might overlook another important change that is occurring in parallel—the ability to attract the specific digital talent needed to deliver on the promise of connected medical devices.

Demand is growing for connected medical devices

We have entered an era where an ever-expanding number of medical devices can generate, collect, analyze, and transmit data to care providers and patients…and to each other. Connectivity among sensors and devices is enabling health care organizations to streamline their clinical operations and workflow management, and improve patient care, even from remote locations.

The march toward value-based care is pushing health care stakeholders to seek medical devices that offer greater value—many of which are connected devices, or “IoMT” devices (internet of medical things). Devices that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), natural-language processing, predictive algorithms, machine learning, and cognitive computing can help clinicians improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and populations.

The IoMT market is expected to be worth $158.1 billion by 2022. From pregnancy testing kits to surgical instruments, artificial joints and MRI scanners, technology is allowing these devices to generate, collect, analyze and transmit data, creating a connected infrastructure of health systems and services.

Patients want these innovative technologies—including apps and voice-recognition software to support their health, and at-home diagnostics are becoming increasingly popular.

Medtech could face a digital talent gap

But some medtech leaders are concerned that a growing skills gap—particularly in digital talent—could make it difficult to keep pace with an insatiable demand for innovative new connected devices, which could hinder market growth. Although 79 percent of respondents to a recent survey believe that their company is “very well” or “reasonably well” prepared to build digital capability within their organization, only 22 percent of all respondents selected “recruiting top digital talent” as one of their top three priorities for better utilizing the data generated from connected medical devices.

Five strategies to help attract digital-savvy talent

Along with competing against small, tech-savvy medtech startups, incumbent industry players are facing an emerging competitive threat from technology firms outside of health care that are seeking the very same talent. Some of these companies—from retailers to consumer-wearable companies—have set their sights on health care, and their ability to attract top digital talent could help them capture a share of the health care market. Here are five strategies medtech companies should consider to attract digital expertise:

  1. Consider digital-first skills: The medtech workforce is evolving from one that historically focused on electrical and mechanical engineering and product development, to a new and flexible class of workers who possess skills in digital, advanced data analytics, and machine learning. If medtech companies are to remain competitive, they will likely need to develop a new, digital-first skill set. This skill set should include experience in digital (e.g., app and algorithm development) and multidisciplinary talent from creative and scientific backgrounds (e.g., advertising, statistics).
  2. Update recruiting tactics: Accessing the skills of potential employees will likely require more resourceful recruitment and retention strategies. Scanning academic papers and industry conferences in fields such as cognitive science, behavioral economics, and mathematics can help medtech firms identify potential candidates outside of their traditional recruiting grounds.
  3. Collaborate with outside groups: While mergers and acquisitions can help large medtech companies acquire the digital talent they need, partnerships and collaborations with traditional and non-traditional players can help fill out a company’s skill set. New collaborations and partnerships with a diverse range of existing and emerging players—especially academia, engineering companies, data-first tech companies, and innovative new start-ups—could help medtech companies tap a larger talent pool. Corporate sponsorship of student projects, for example, could help medtech companies spot potential talent early.
  4. Look for data science backgrounds: Experience in data mining and data visualization have become are much sought after skills among technology companies. Medtech companies should consider recruiting data scientists who have advanced degrees and a strong background in statistics and/or computer science. Moreover, regulatory changes and growing economic pressures across the IoMT ecosystem have created a demand for new skills and capabilities to manage the path from research and development to bringing a new product to market.
  5. Create a digital culture: Medtech companies should consider adopting a digital culture to help recruit and retain tech-savvy talent. Medtech manufacturers that invest in their digital presence (and digitally friendly office space) might make themselves more attractive to digital-savvy candidates.

By 2030—just 12 years from now—the US could face a shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians, according to recent estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Given this anticipated shortage, health care providers will likely need to do more with less. Connected medical devices and other digitally-enabled products could help them keep up with demand.

PS. We are continuing the conversation on the IoMT and connected medical devices during an upcoming webcast on October 4. Hope you can join us!

Author bio

Pedro Arboleda is a Managing Director in Deloitte’s Boston office leading commercial strategy projects since 2001 for leading life sciences and health care firms. Pedro’s recent projects have included work for a leading med tech company on the future of connected care and sales enablement. Pedro has also been recently involved in helping Advamed’s Diabetes Executive Working Group. Prior to joining Deloitte, Pedro worked for United States Senator Charles Schumer as Director of Economic Development for New York, was a sales and marketing specialist at Intel Corporation, and was the co-founder of Arboleda Digital, LLC, a digital strategy consulting firm.