At a recent event on Making London the World Leader in Digital Health we caught up with Maxine Mackintosh – Managing Director of Healthtech Women UK.
HealthTech Women is a global non-profit organisation that empowers women leaders to educate communities about technologies impacting the healthcare ecosystem. Founded in 2013 in San Francisco, the network has grown internationally. HealthTech Women provides (1) A platform for women in healthtech to meet (2) Support personal and professional development through events and workshops (3) Advancement and promotion of female speakers, thought leaders and content-generators across all healthtech areas. HealthTech Women offers are a range of activities, from meetup events to legal clinics to business dinners.
SD – Hi, could you please introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Maxine, I’m the Managing Director of HealthTech Women UK and and all-round digital health fanatic. My other life passion is fancy dress – feathers and glitter? I’m there.
SD – Where are you based?
SD – What is your background?
Academia has always been my day job, but all the fun happens outside of that– I studied neuroscience and pharmacology before changing direction through an MSc in health economics. I am now doing a PhD in data science (in dementia); it’s all been carefully planned I assure you (portfolio academic maybe?). Exploration, stemming from disgruntled academic life, led me to spend time with DFID, Roche, the Royal Society and even L’Oreal. But very quickly I became involved in the medical innovation startup scene – my main pockets of interest are now around Big Data, translational research and working on how large organisations like Big Pharma or the NHS can incorporate and accommodate digital health.
SD – Tell us about HealthTech Women and the background to the organisation?
HealthTech Women started in the US about 3 years ago when 3 women in San Francisco got together and decided they would try and tackle some of the problems around gender balance in the healthech industry. It’s grown from there with hubs in various locations across America, and in late 2015 we set up HealthTech Women UK. Each hub is unique but the underlying mission is to promote female leaders in modern healthcare and educate the community (of women AND men) on medical innovation. We are doing this through events, workshops, speaker opportunities, mentorship and some very exciting new arms we are developing. Details coming soon…
SD – What are your growth plans in the UK and also Europe?
Our UK launch was only in November 2015 however the network is already 3,000 members strong, doubling alone last month. We are really seeing an exponential growth in the network at the moment. Our primary goal was to ensure the NHS was engaged – this has been a huge success and we have had enormous support and interest from them. We are now focussing on engaging industry and supportive disciplines like lawyers, designers and economists. A large proportion of the network are women in SMEs too.
Our two main priorities are national coverage and real value from the network. I’m thrilled to say we are launching our Northern hub on April 13th in Leeds, which Beverley Bryant (Head of Digital Technology at NHS England) is opening. We are planning events across Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle too. So many of the digital health networks are focused on the Golden Triangle. We are driven to balance this across the country.
Secondly, we are currently building out various arms of HTW so that we are more than just a platform that brings people together. We have lots in the pipeline including legal clinics, schools outreach, consulting, mentorship, exclusive career opportunities, recruitment and a speaker bank.
Our hands are currently full with the UK, but anyone interested in setting up a hub in another European country let me know!
SD – What do you see as your biggest challenge for HealthTech Women?
The divisiveness of this area – Women in x.
Healthcare is overwhelmingly female so one could easily argue there is no need for any “Women in Healthcare” groups. But the truth of the matter is, that healthcare is becoming increasingly intertwined with technology. If frontline clinicians (over 2/3 of which are female) are to be drivers of innovation, a gap is emerging due to the deficit of women in technology. There are of course all the same problems in career progression, women in technical roles and lack of female leadership, role models and mentors. This is ubiquitous across the professional world – Surgeons, CEOs or Professors are no different.
I believe there is space for both overtly female groups (i.e. groups like HTW that have “women” in the name) but also stealth ones! HTW is making sure we cater to both. We are focussing our efforts on women, however partnering left-right-and-centre to get a mixed gender community interacting with ours, as well as doing substantial behind the scenes work, for example making sure external digital health events have a gender- balanced line up. Some upcoming conferences will be all female, HTW is not going to appear anywhere, their female presence is not going to be a point of discussion, it’s just going to happen.
The biggest challenge is creating a cohesive and value-added network to our members, but also making sure we are only a springboard and as open as possible. In the wake of #HeforShe there is limited value in women solely engaging in women-dominated events. This is a difficult territory to navigate – we continuously get emails from men asking if they can attend our events, so we still have not achieved the openness I think is needed.
My aim is for the network to be popular because of the amazing content, not because we tick someone’s diversity box.
SD – What do you see the Healthcare Technology landscape being in 2020?
A small question…Unfortunately not that dissimilar to now. I suppose two big picture predictions in the short-term are 1) A convergence of big infrastructure and nifty digital health, and 2) A cultural shift of responsibility to the patient.
I see there being a much stronger alignment between the rhetoric and action happening at the fringes of health innovation and its real-world implementation. An innovation isn’t an innovation in the NHS, unless it can be successfully implemented, diffused and scaled.
As the NHS muddles through what are approved apps, how digital health is reimbursed, what the legal implications are, the dialogue will hopefully converge at an earlier stage, as digital innovations take greater care in catering to the end-user and end-environment, whether that’s the patient or the clinician. At times the flashy healthtech at Exponential Medicine or Health 2.0 is a far cry from the reality within the NHS. With so many accelerators/programmes/bodies set up to access the NHS, digital and NHS infrastructure will be forced together under the same roof more often, and hopefully start to speak the same language. AI and NHS can realistically appear in the same sentence.
Secondly, I see a shift of responsibility onto the population, transferring the burden from centralised hospitals onto the individual. By giving patients-to-be the need, incentive and means to taken ownership over their health, this should set the foundations for preventive medicine. I see digital as the means, and the cultural change to follow in tandem. The need and incentives (i.e. drive to lead your life in a preventive manner) will not have changed sufficiently by 2020, but certainly the change in population mindset should be well on its way.
SD – How do people find our more information?
We have lots of different avenues to get involved and contribute to the community–
We are launching our new website at the end of April at www.healthtechwomen.co.uk
In the meantime join our:
New LinkedIn group
We are a volunteer-led organisation so if anyone wants to get involved in making the network reach its full potential email me at Maxine@healthtechwomen.com or our Northern lead at email@example.com.
SD – thanks for your time