Just to be clear, I am not talking about medical professionals here. Hopefully the reason they work in healthcare is pretty obvious. This is about why would IT professionals want to work in healthcare.
I need to relate this to my personal experience so need to include a bit of my history here. My background is from working in finance in the City of London. I started there pre Big-Bang when the city was a totally different place to what it is now. Those were the days of ‘My word is my bond’, and that was the rule the city worked to. It was an exciting place to work as a youngster, the real hub of the country and where all the real advances in computer technology and practices were being made and used. We were doing leading edge database and User Interface work and the pay was pretty good.
At that time, especially because of the technology I was using, I would often look at the technical job adverts and may of them were for work in the healthcare sector. However at that time all I could see was civil service bureaucracy, out-dated systems and stupidly low pay so I didn’t look very hard.
After a while things changed in the city. The American banks moved in and took over. The culture changed radically and became more cut-throat and more grasping and at that time I started to think more about what I was doing. Essentially I was writing systems to make rich people richer and because of the culture change I wasn’t even enjoying the atmosphere I was working in any more. I started to take more notice of the other possibilities however, by then, I was trapped. The NHS jobs, though far more appealing from a personal viewpoint still suffered the same drawbacks professionally and there was no way I could take a >50% paycut and still pay my mortgage.
Later still, the city was suffering the same fate as many of the large UK companies. They were no longer run by professional businessmen but instead by accountants. This was now no longer even an exciting place to work. All worthwhile projects were now judged on providing return on investment in 1 year regardless of long term benefit. Project managers were too scared to do anything deemed as adventurous or progressive and as a consequence many of the systems started to stagnate. I now desperately wanted to get out but was still trapped by my mortgage and status.
As it happens the decision was made for me in the end. A rather public disagreement about the ethics of the French company I was then working for led to me leaving the city, never to return. It took a while but I ended up working as a contractor for an NHS trust.
What a difference I found. From the first day I was working directly with Doctors and Nurses, receptionists and other staff to help make peoples lives better. For the first time in years I was using my talents to actually help people. I left work at the end of each day actually feeling good about myself.
Other things had changed over the years as well. The NHS trusts were finally looking to provide proper systems for their clinicians to work with. The idea of providing patients with access to their information was just coming through. Not only was I working on worthwhile systems but they were using modern tools and technologies so were fun and exciting to work with as well. Unfortunately one thing that hadn’t changed was the bureaucracy, that has been one of the main reasons why I have done much of my recent healthcare work in the USA.
That is a fairly long-winded introduction to the subject but hopefully helps people understand my thought processes.
Leaving the bureaucracy and stupid EC rules aside, healthcare, both in the UK and abroad is now a good place to work. Pay rates are now at least comparable to other sectors and the work is both rewarding and interesting. In fact I would argue that right now is one of the best times for people to be getting involved in healthcare in the UK. The NHS push to introduce proper joined up Patient Health Records and taking open-source into account means that there are exciting projects to be done. On top of that it seems that the benefits of mobile devices in hospitals are finally being understood and accepted and this is work that should be attracting young talent.
The NHS hackdays up and down the country are also helping to broaden the ways that people can get involved but they probably need to be better advertised outside the existing community where they are preaching to the converted. These are excellent in showing people that they can contribute and don’t have to learn the ins and outs of a massive hospital system in order to do meaningful work.
We need to do more to advertise the exciting, worthwhile, and modern things that are/can be done in healthcare at the moment in order to attract more skill into the sector. From using webRTC to provide direct patient/doctor consultations via a “skype like” interface, to twitter bootstrap interfaces, to using JSON-LD to better share and visualise healthcare data, to providing real-time web based dashboards of bed availability, etc etc
so, to try and answer the question…
Healthcare at the moment is a great place to work.
You achieve personal satisfaction in contributing to peoples lives.
You can work on modern, exciting, tools and projects.
You can get decent pay.
so why wouldn’t you want to?