Digital health leaders ‘value application over publication’ – report

In the latest of its Talent Equity reports, life sciences talent consultancy RSA Group has highlighted the key differences between digital health and other life science companies.

The research pointed out digital health’s valuing of an ‘application over publication’ attitude in accordance with a lower number of PhDs and patents attributed to digital health leaders compared to other life sciences companies.

Another key difference was identified in cultural behaviours between the two disciplines, referring to the tech/digital sector as having an aggressive ‘do it, fix it’ attitude, in contrast to the medical and scientific community’s regulatory obligations.

Chris Molloy, CEO of RSA, commented on the additional difference between sector board levels: “Digital innovation is the natural domain of the young but it’s also necessary to respect scientific rigour and evidence. Facts are stubborn things and an ability to work with them is a critical assessment in choosing and supporting a sound leader. The right combination of youthful zeal with proven judgement and challenge is vital. This is where the balance of leadership, talent and relevant board skills is so critical.”

The report also mentions a general youth to the digital health sector which it attributes both to the rapid emergence of new tools and capabilities – such as wireless technology, artificial intelligence platforms and deep learning – and the aforementioned digital health culture that values skills and results as opposed to past credentials. The report likens the situation to the emergence of young biotechs such as Genentech and Amgen in the 1980s. 

The average age of digital health companies (6 years) compared to pharma companies (17 years) and average age of digital health executives (43 years) compared to pharma executives (59 years) compounded the youthfulness trait the report attributes to the digital health sector.

Also of note was digital health’s supposed multicultural background reflected in company employees. The report suggests that the most successful digital health companies are those that foster a balanced set of team skills, the averages given by this report suggesting an almost exact five-way split between clinical, academic, commercial, management consulting and software development.

Dr Charlie Grebenstein of Heritage Partners, who also worked on this study, added: “successful leaders don’t need the specialist skills of software developers and health experts, they can manage with skills on one side of the ‘divide’. However, they can’t succeed without an effective combined vision. They need to be natural born problem solvers who either identified a healthcare problem that technology can solve or a technology that lends itself to a problem they have then identified through contacts in healthcare.”

As expected, most of the top 20 digital health companies are clustered around the San Francisco area, with the Boston-Washington corridor and London close behind. The report reasons that this is due to an “atmosphere of innovation engendering a tolerance for risk-taking.”

Read the full report here.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.