Interested in working for a healthcare IT startup? While the potential rewards are vast, so are the challenges.
“In healthcare, many great ideas falter because of technology—or more specifically, the difficulty in integrating to legacy systems,” John Sung Kim, founder of Five9 and DoctorBase, wrote in a new TechCrunch column. “Whether you’re selling to a small doctor’s office or a large hospital, healthcare organizations of any size are juggling multiple software systems, many of which do not speak to each other.”
Although many experts blame the woes of the healthcare IT industry on a lack of integration between healthcare databases and software platforms, there’s also the issue of regulations. Every app that interacts with patient data needs to follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects health data both in movement between databases and at rest. Hospitals and other entities that handle such data must ensure that they can maintain necessary privacy and security standards.
According to Kim, startups in healthcare IT face entrenched competition from Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors, whose executives have no desire to find their business “disrupted” by some tiny company with an innovative new platform.
Whether working for a tiny startup or a massive vendor, tech pros interested in the healthcare IT field need to familiarize themselves with not only the basic building blocks of any software platform—programming languages such as C# and Python, and management methods including Agile—but also the sort of creative thinking that allows people to solve thorny problems.
That being said, much of the software employed in healthcare is complex and unique to the industry, making it hard for tech pros to get a handle on much of it until they have a number of years of experience under their belts. Health Level 7 (a framework and standards for retrieving electronic health data) and DICOM (an imaging program) are just two of the platforms that workers will need to get familiar with.
But given the importance of data protection, perhaps the most important skill to learn is everything HIPAA-related. Whatever the nature of your startup, there’s nothing more important than ensuring patient data is shielded.