Unit.3 | Digital Health
Learning Unit | Digital Health

Careers in Digital Health

Chapter 06/07

Snapshot

Explore career opportunities in the fast-growing digital health field. Learn about the educational requirements and salary ranges for some of the jobs in digital health.

Key Terms:

  • Software
  • Sensor
  • 3D printing
  • Virtual hospital
  • Telemedicine

The digital health sector is running rampant with entrepreneurs and startups—and it’s rife with capital, too.

In 2018 investors pumped a record-high $8.1 billion into digital health companies, outstripping 2017’s total by 42%. Digital health is undergoing explosive growth, which means there’s plenty of career opportunity for those with the right mix of skills, education and experience.

Developing Digital Health Applications

Web Application Developer

A web application developer.

Mean annual salary: $73,611

Most of the new venture capital pouring into the digital health sector is flowing toward companies whose products are applications that can be used through a web browser, as opposed to products that rely on mobile device apps. The flexibility of web apps—which don’t require users to have a certain device—makes them particularly attractive for digital health applications, where a primary goal is to remove barriers to use. Although web app development is similar to other kinds of software development, there tends to be a shorter time to market, and testing is usually more complex because web app user inputs are more prone to errors and omissions. Web app developers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science and some experience in software development.

Software Engineer

A software engineer.

Mean annual salary: $107,040

The job duties of a software engineer are similar to those of a software developer, but there are crucial distinctions between the two. Developers usually take a more creative approach to building software, whereas engineers apply engineering principles to software development. This typically involves focusing on the software’s features and how users will interact with them—an especially important consideration in digital health, where the user experience could make the difference in real-world health outcomes. As more and more consumer-facing digital health apps and devices hit the market, the companies developing all this tech will have to hire software engineers to ensure that these products meet users’ needs. Software engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science and several years of experience in software development.

Developing Digital Health Products

Product Engineer

A product engineer.

Mean annual salary: $87,370

Product engineers are mechanical engineers who design products and the processes necessary to manufacture them. In the digital health space, these would be the people who design devices such as wearable health sensors, in-home medical alert systems for seniors or lab-on-a-chip smartphone attachments for portable diagnostic testing. Product engineers create digital models of products by using computer-aided design software; create and test prototypes; source manufacturing materials; and ensure that the product will satisfy company specifications and comply with safety regulations. Product engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Product Manager

A product manager.

Mean annual salary: $119,141

Product managers assume leadership responsibility for successful development of an IT product. This usually begins with identification of an unmet need through market analysis, followed by product strategy, planning of the development and release process, product ideation and feature definition. Once development begins, product managers lead the cross-functional product team—which includes developers, engineers, salespeople, marketers and support staff—until launch. In the digital health sector, product managers could be overseeing the development of a mobile app, a web app or a physical device such as a wearable vital-signs tracker. Digital health product managers will need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or electrical engineering and several years of product-management experience.

Future Jobs for Digital Health Care Providers

3D Printing Tissue Specialist

A 3D printing tissue specialist.

3D printing in health care has progressed far beyond prosthetic limbs.

3D printing in health care has progressed far beyond prosthetic limbs. Now scientists are using human stem cells to 3D print “organoids” that replicate the structure and function of human organs, for use in drug testing and other forms of biological research. Researchers are already hard at work developing ways to use 3D printers to create new skin made from human skin cells to be used in reconstructive surgery. Applications in the pipeline include 3D-printed organs, bone implants and soft tissue such as cartilage and muscle. In the future there will be a need for technicians who specialize in using 3D printers to create items made at least partially from human tissues.

Virtual Hospital Manager

A virtual hospital manager.

In this case it’s the hospital that’s virtual, not the manager. There’s already one virtual hospital in operation: Mercy Virtual in Missouri, which bills itself as a “hospital without beds.” The hospital’s operations are based in a four-story, 125,000-square-foot Virtual Care Center designed to support the delivery of telehealth services to patients, including on-call nurses and physician teleconsults. As digital health technology continues to improve and proliferate, there will be more such facilities, and they’ll need managers who are experts in the unique technical and ethical issues associated with providing health care virtually.

Career Opportunities Abound in Digital Health

The future’s looking bright for employment in the digital health sector.

The future’s looking bright for employment in the digital health sector. Whether you’re developing the software, designing and building the devices or working in a role that doesn’t quite exist yet (but will soon), digital health holds many opportunities for those who want to help drive the improvement of human health through technology.

Next Section

Digital Health in Action

Chapter 07 of 07

Learn how digital health innovations are already being used to improve health.