Upskilling in a digital health world

It’s no secret that digital technologies are playing a significant role when it comes to shaping the next era of healthcare. Necessity accelerated the adoption of new and sophisticated technologies and systems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but this seismic shift towards digital health has opened up a gap in education.

To successfully navigate the potential of digital technologies in healthcare, attention must be focused on upskilling professionals in the field to equip them with the necessary digital health competencies.

This was the subject of a recent pharmaphorum webinar, sponsored by Healthware International, where Healthware CEO Roberto Ascione and Politecnico di Milano (MIP) Professor Emanuele Lettieri laid out plans for a new executive education programme in digital health innovation.

“There is no way we can find enough people that are really skilled about these new modalities, these new interactions, and way of doing things,” explained Ascione. “We need to train people and professionals that have a tonne of experience, specifically in the Life Science industry, but then I want to fast track their skills when it comes to digital health.”

The need for a new programme

Change, as is often said, begins at the top. And with adoption of digital health on an upward trajectory across life sciences, industry leaders face a choice between actively learning and preparing for changes brought about by the rise of digital, or risk being left behind as the industry evolves.

Even for the brightest minds, the rapid evolution of technology in healthcare presents a significant challenge. As Lettieri noted during the webinar, “Every 36 mins we have a new medical patent in Europe and every nine minutes we have a new app related to healthcare.”

This growing need for education and awareness around digital health was a significant driving force in the creation of the Executive Programme in Digital Health Innovation.

“Digital acceleration has opened up numerous opportunities but has also sat out of the comfort zone and skill set of a lot of people working in the industry,” explained Ascione. “Essentially, we are on an accelerated transformative path and there is less and less time to get up to speed

To help professionals and executives navigate the ongoing transformation, Healthware International and the MIP Graduate School of Business joined forces to develop a comprehensive education programme. The aim of the project was simple: provide participants with the tools and understanding needed to effectively formulate a strategic vision in the digital age.

 Inside a new era of education

For both Ascione and Lettieri, crafting a syllabus that suited the unique requirements of experienced professionals and executives was paramount if the programme was to successfully provide value for participants.

As Lettieri highlighted, “It’s very important that the participants get a comprehensive understanding of the digital evolution and the dots that need to be connected in terms of skills.”

This concept of connecting dots in skills and knowledge was highlighted several times during the webinar, as both speakers emphasised how a broader understanding of digital health developments across industry can become an important tool for executives navigating the fast-paced environment of modern healthcare.

As such, each of the programme’s eight modules has been sculpted to touch upon key issues and areas where digital health has an impact. Throughout a course of eight modules, participants will be provided with insight into the consumerisation of healthcare, in addition to learning about leading developments in digital therapeutics, open innovation, telehealth and telepharmacy, as well as data science and digital R&D.

“There is a mix between vertical skills and horizontal skills,” explained Ascione. “We designed the programme to touch on the topics that we believe everyone in the industry should at least be aware of. We believe there will be ways to go much deeper through the networking that will be applied throughout this learning experience.”

Creating a hybrid learning experience

Of course, when creating a programme for high-level figures across life sciences, it’s vital to understand and tailor the learning experience to suit the lives and responsibilities of participants.

Closely mirroring the growing accessibility of hybrid engagement models in healthcare in education, providing a mixture of in-person and on-demand digital learning has become a valuable feature for prospective participants.

“We really thought a lot about the executive programme format,” explains Lettieri. “The participants are very busy people, they need knowledge, but this should be coherent to their needs working schedules, and so on.”

In the creation of the executive programme, Lettieri noted that the MIP Graduate School of Business leveraged the use of smart locations and on-demand classes, services that the polytechnic had matured during the preliminary stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this specific course, Healthware and MIP chose to adopt a hybrid-first approach when designing the programme’s structure. Online modules will be delivered in a two-hour format, with each class made available to view on-demand. This will allow participants to revisit and review key topics around the heavy demands of their professional responsibilities.

During the webinar, both speakers stressed that the programme would provide both academic and practical experiences. The aim of combining both approaches is to provide learners with actionable tools and knowledge that can be immediately applied to their day-to-day operations.

Alongside the eight modules, Ascione believes the addition of Frontiers Health 2022 could be a significant networking opportunity for participants. The health innovation event will host the executive programme’s closing ceremony, with the third day of the conference reserved for participants to present their final project work.

Planning for a digital future

As digital health develops in the coming years, it is likely that this digital health-focused approach to education will become a standard feature across a variety of global institutions.

Throughout the webinar, both speakers spotlighted the concept of value in education. Primarily, this focused on providing actionable insight for participants to employ as they navigate the changing digital health landscape. However, beyond this, Ascione highlighted the value of understanding how digital health is applied across the industry rather than focusing on one specific area of interest.

“Digital health is not about the technology, says Ascione. It is a different way to conceive how we think, design, deliver, and research health, and therefore, you cannot and should not understand telehealth but not telepharmacy.”

Through the design of the programme, both Ascione and Lettieri believe that participants will be introduced to a comprehensive range of topics – ideas they claim that every person working in life sciences should be aware of.

About the pannel 

Roberto Ascione, CEO and founder, Healthware GroupRoberto Ascione is a pioneer in digital health and a recognised thought leader, people-inspiring founder, serial entrepreneur, and global manager. He is currently CEO at Healthware Group, a global health innovation and technology company providing transformational advisory and technology services for commercial, medical, and R&D operations of life-sciences and digital health companies, combined with design and development of digital medicines and digital therapeutics. He is author of the books “Il Futuro della Salute” (Hoepli) and “The Future of Health” (Wiley), adjunct professor at the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano and chairman at Frontiers Health, one of the leading digital health conferences globally. Among several advisory roles, Roberto is a founding advisor of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, past-president of the HealthTech Summit, member of the Advisory Board of the Global Coalition on Aging and member of the Roster of Experts for the WHO Digital Health Technical Advisory Group (DHTAG). He is also president of Healthware Ventures, the corporate venture studio of Healthware Group and seats on the board of several portfolio companies.

Emanuelle LettieriEmanuelle Lettieri is a full professor of management of innovation in healthcare at the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano. His research activities are concentrated on the impact of organisational and technological innovations in health, with a focus on the relationship between innovation and value-based healthcare models. Since 2000 he has been following theoretical and applied research projects on innovation in Italian and international healthcare. He is scientific director of the Digital Health Observatory and the Life Science Innovation Observatory at the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano. He designed courses of innovative training at the MIP Graduate School of Business for both health professionals and companies such as Pharma, MedTech and BioTech. He is author of 100+ contributions on the topic of innovation in healthcare.

Jonah ComstockJonah Comstock is editor in chief pharmaphorum (moderator) is a veteran digital health journalist, Jonah was an early hire at MobiHealthNews and most recently led editorial efforts at HIMSS Media.