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Digitisation: What MedTech can learn from Pharma

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✨ Introduction

In this episode of Career Diaries by elemed, Elena spoke with Julie Huxley-Jones – a leading figure in AI, digital R&D and science – about the intersection of technology and healthcare as a challenging yet profoundly impactful space. They discussed the critical aspects of digitisation in MedTech, drawing from Julie’s extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Read on for the key themes and insights from their conversation.

Integrating digitisation into MedTech

Julie emphasises the importance of fusing digital, tech, and scientific disciplines to drive innovation. She advocates for a holistic approach where data and technology underpin all activities rather than functioning in silos. This integration is crucial for enhancing problem-solving capabilities and fostering innovation within the industry.

Lessons from Big Pharma

MedTech can learn significantly from the pharmaceutical industry’s approach to digitisation. Julie notes that while digitisation has been a hot topic in pharma for some time, it is now gaining traction in MedTech. The use of AI and digital tools for tasks such as regulatory documentation and predictive analytics in product design and manufacturing are areas where MedTech can benefit from pharma’s experiences.

Reflecting on her journey of digitising within pharma, Julie shares several key lessons:

Think Broadly and Strategically:

Problem-solving should start with a broad perspective, considering multiple steps beyond the immediate problem. This approach can lead to innovative solutions by drawing on diverse experiences and industries.

Cultivate Diverse Teams:

Building a team with varied backgrounds and perspectives fosters a rich environment for innovation. Leadership should create a culture of psychological safety where team members feel comfortable challenging ideas and contributing freely.

Maintain a Balanced Portfolio:

Successful innovation requires a balanced approach to readiness—having solutions ready now, soon, and in the future. This ensures continuous progress and adaptation to new technologies and market needs.

Impact of Digitisation on Jobs

Digitisation is transforming the workforce by augmenting rather than replacing jobs. Core functions like HR, finance, and IT are seeing the most significant impacts, with digital tools enhancing efficiency and allowing employees to focus on more complex and creative aspects of their work. This shift can lead to new roles and opportunities rather than job losses. Julie likens this to previous industrial revolutions, where automation elevated the human experience rather than eliminating it.

Curiosity and Adaptability

Julie underscores the need for a curious mindset to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving digital technology landscape. She highlights the importance of being open to new tools and technologies and adapting quickly to changes. This agility is essential for continuous improvement and innovation.

Strategic Implementation

A structured approach is crucial for successful digital transformation. Julie suggests a three-tier strategy:

Ready Now: Implement quick wins that deliver immediate value and excite the workforce.

Ready Soon: Identify and adopt innovations from other industries that can be tailored to MedTech needs.

Ready in the Future:
Invest in high-risk, high-reward projects to explore groundbreaking technologies.

Cultural Change and Leadership

Creating a culture that embraces digitisation is vital. Julie talks about her efforts to build a receptive and innovative culture, emphasising the role of leadership in driving this change. Leaders must be willing to take bold steps and create an environment where experimentation is encouraged, and failure is seen as a learning opportunity.

Diverse and Multidisciplinary Teams

Julie believes that diversity in teams leads to higher performance. Bringing together professionals from different industries and disciplines fosters creativity and innovation. This approach enriches problem-solving and accelerates the development of new solutions in MedTech.

Personal Motivation and Purpose-Driven Leadership

Julie shares her personal story of living with epilepsy and how it inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare. Her passion for improving patient outcomes drives her commitment to innovation. She stresses the importance of purpose-driven leadership in attracting and motivating talent in the industry.

Borrowing from Other Industries

MedTech can gain valuable insights by looking at advancements in other sectors. Julie advises MedTech companies to adopt strategies and technologies that have proven successful elsewhere, enhancing their own processes and capabilities.

Bridging the Gap Between Tech and Medtech

Julie reflects on the difficulty of attracting tech talent to the healthcare sector. Engineers and digital experts often shy away from healthcare due to the slow pace of product development and stringent regulations compared to other industries. However, the speaker emphasised the mission-driven nature of MedTech, which offers a unique opportunity to directly impact and transform lives. This compelling narrative can be a powerful draw for tech professionals seeking meaningful work.

The Importance of Data and Evidence

A significant theme was the transformation of MedTech companies into data-centric organisations. Unlike many industries, MedTech must produce extensive data packages to prove the efficacy of their products to regulators. This shift positions MedTech firms as data companies, highlighting the crucial role of digital talent in managing and leveraging vast amounts of data to drive innovation and compliance.

Build or Buy: Strategic Decision-Making

The discussion also delved into the perennial dilemma of whether to build or buy technology solutions. The key is to evaluate what is core to the company’s intellectual property and what can be outsourced or partnered on. This decision hinges on the company’s competitive edge and the agility of its procurement processes to adapt to rapidly changing technologies.

Preparing for a Digital Future

For professionals across generations, embracing digital requires curiosity and continuous learning. Digital natives can leverage their familiarity with technology to drive innovation, while those less accustomed to digital tools can draw on their extensive experience and adaptability. The key is to take incremental steps in learning and applying new technologies, fostering a culture of shared knowledge and collaboration.

Legacy and Leadership

Julie shares the legacy she wishes to leave: unlocking the potential of others and fostering a culture of continuous learning and courage to innovate. By attracting and nurturing passionate talent and embodying a hunger for knowledge, she hopes to drive lasting impact in the MedTech industry.

Say goodbye to wasting time and money on digitising your regulatory activities.

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