I spent four years working as a doctor in the NHS, a career that was rewarding, challenging and inspiring in equal measure. But the more time I spent on hospital floors, the more passionate I became about finding solutions to the problems draining time and resources from the health system.
Eventually, I decided to put my experience and insights to use in working full-time on building tech to fix these problems, and I entered the world of health tech in 2016 when I founded Credentially.
Today, I’m often approached by other doctors considering a switch to health tech asking for my advice – here are the six things I tell them.
1. You are not ‘failing’ your patients by stepping back from the frontline
First off, it’s important to recognise that, as a trained doctor, there are many different avenues you can take to help patients. Just because you’re not spending every hour of your professional life in a clinical environment, it doesn’t mean that you’re ‘wasting’ your skills.
In reality, many doctors have portfolio careers that combine clinical hours with research, advisory work, teaching, or any number of other roles, performed at the same time or sequentially. Advancing and championing global health requires input from people in numerous different roles and sectors.
2. This might not be any easier or less stressful than working on the hospital floor!
If you’re struggling with burnout and are considering the move into health tech as a low-stress solution, you should think again. The reality is that working in a startup is a high-pressure environment that frequently requires long hours and can be high-stakes. If you’re not truly motivated and passionate about the solution you’re working on, a career in health tech might place the same strain on your mental health as a career in full-time medicine did.
3. Your skills are much more transferable than you think
Medics considering swapping their scrubs for startup life often worry that they’ll have a huge skills gap to bridge. But in reality, anyone who has trained and worked as a doctor is already well-equipped to thrive in the health tech sector. From creative problem-solving to task management, leadership, empathy, and keeping calm in a crisis, a medic’s skillset is a highly diverse and transferable one.
4. Your lived experience will be incredibly valuable…
In health tech, whether you’re founding your own project or joining an established company, you’ll be focused on using technology to tackle some of the health sector’s toughest problems. These are problems that you and your colleagues are likely to have experience with from multiple touchpoints, leaving you with unique insight into how they should be approached and addressed.
You’ll also have an understanding of how to make solutions accessible and valuable for clinicians and for patients, and can play an important role in communicating the benefits of your product to a non-specialist audience.
5. …but you’ll need to learn how to collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders
Despite the valuable skills and experience you’re already armed with as a doctor, your transition into health tech will place you at the bottom of a steep learning curve. Accept that the first few months will be tough as you adapt to new ways of working, and embrace this chance to learn from and collaborate with the people you’ll encounter from all backgrounds. From coders and developers to investors and interest groups, everyone has their own experience and knowledge that can add value to your work.
6. You’ll have the opportunity to make a huge impact on the lives of patients and clinicians
One of the things that excites me most about working in health tech is the scale of impact that my work can have. When you’re in the early research and building phases, it can be tough not to see results straight away. But once your solution gets into the hands of your target users, it’s so rewarding to see the product that you’ve created making a measurable impact on lives and on system outcomes. The most exciting thing about tech solutions is that they have the potential to be globally scalable – which means that your work has the power to help hundreds or thousands of people at the same time.
Finally, good luck! As our national and international health systems face up to enormous challenges, we need more experienced medics to participate in building the future of healthcare. If you want to make a difference, exploring the options that await you in health tech could be the best career decision you’ll ever make.
Dr Kit Latham is the co-founder and CEO of Credentially.