Health technology needs greater diversity

Technology can improve the health of healthcare, but requires improvements in diversity if the course is to succeed.

A passing glance at the healthcare sector suggests diversity is stronger in the clinical sector than any other vertical market. Despite a high number of women clinicians, the sector has diversity challenges and this is clearly seen in the technology and leadership element of health. Although the diagnosis is of an underlying health issue, health technology leaders can and in some cases are actively treating the problem.

"Healthcare is a sector with one of the most diverse workforces collectively, and should be applauded for that, but the same cannot be said of its leadership teams, and that has to be addressed as technology becomes an increasingly important part of clinical care and operational management," says Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK, an industry body. 

Diversity, in all its elements, is vital to healthcare and health technology. A study into racial diversity in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK found diversity to be vital to ensure: "a motivated, included and valued workforce helps deliver high quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and better patient safety." The same values of care, inclusion, satisfaction and patient safety extrapolate across to the technologies clinicians and health organisations use. 

"As society becomes increasingly technology dependent, it is essential that the creation and production of these solutions are carried out by a diverse community that is representative of its users," de Rojas adds. 

 

Health risks

If health tech providers and services fail to be as representative as the wider society a series of risks will infect the sector. "The potential for the rising use of algorithms to improve the analysis and management of health data, for example, is well documented, but it is also a technology that demonstrates the potential pitfalls of poor diversity," de Rojas says. "If an algorithm is going to decide if an individual gets a certain medical treatment, place at university, a job interview, or a mortgage, then as a society we had better make sure that the groups designing those algorithms are as diverse and reflective of the patients, potential students, interview candidates or mortgage applicants. If we fail to build a diverse community of technology creators, we are building a world that won't work properly."

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