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Why the health tech industry suffers from tech industry culture

I love finding people and work that inspire me to keep pushing forward. Gina Merchant is absolutely one of those people. Gina is a Behavioural Scientist specialising in digital health product development, research, and strategy, and she currently works as a consultant to the health tech industry.  

 In this brilliant short interview, she offers a poignant answer to the following question: 

What’s the biggest barrier to getting things done in your line of work 

Gina says; The biggest barrier I face, and observe others facing, is being asked to play by a set of rules and a culture handed down by the tech industry, which does not transfer well to the health tech industry. For example, product timelines are often too short to bring an effective product to market (and despite lip service to iteration, products often remain unchanged year over year). 

If you lead with the question, ‘what is effective’, it is striking how much of the health tech industry is crowded but not actually competitive. Also, it is inane to see so much capital raised, to witness such absurd valuations, and to experience so many untrustworthy marketing claims year after year after year. 

I wish we could all align on the long-term value of doing the unsexy dirty work required to bring to market effective, reliable, and safe health tech products. If we could slow down a little bit, bring more humility to the industry, increase diversity in people and ideas, we would be much better equipped to deliver on technology’s promise in the health arena. 

This is a great point that has parallels to public health and the way services are often commissioned. In our own field of weight management, it can often look like commissioners require certainty of outcomes. But there are myriad factors that can influence this, most notably that people’s lives are complex and require a flexible, proficient workforce with training and experience across a range of disciplines.  

The point about humility is also transferable. When entering a partnership – and it should be a partnership – with commissioners, we should be looking to learn what is required by the local population. Each area is different, culturally and infra-structurally and this impacts the way in which people require support. When commissioning a public health service, how much emphasis is placed on continuous learning using data that is considered by the commissioners and providers together?  

This is how real progress is made. I’m excited to see inspiring and influential individuals like Gina voicing these points publicly.