Coding for care: Technology careers in heath

Love tech and want to save lives? Medicine and healthcare are being transformed by digital technology.

Healthcare and social assistance – think hospitals, medical centres, aged care and childcare – is Australia’s biggest and fastest growing industry. And healthcare is not only on the rise due to our growing and ageing population, but it is also evolving fast thanks to advances in technology.

This means if the sight of blood makes you squeamish, there are still loads of job opportunities in healthcare, especially for anyone with tech skills and qualifications.

For example, as we digitise health information we will need data analysts and cyber security experts to help us make the most of that vital data while keeping it safe. We need engineers and developers to design and build life-saving health software and apps; and machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts will drive our increasing use of these technologies to do everything from accurately diagnosing disease to conducting precision robotic surgery. Advances in technology are also driving down the cost of sequencing DNA and genomes, opening up new realms of medicine.

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‘Tectonic shift’ to digital

The COVID-19 pandemic has only driven home the important role of technology in medicine. In just the past year we’ve seen the rise of telehealth – using technology to deliver health services remotely, while tech has played a public health role in tracking down contacts of people with positive COVID-19 test results. AI has also been used to automatically interpret and accurately diagnose COVID-19 infection in scans.

“With COVID-19 we’ve seen about 10 years’ worth of digital transformation in the space of a few months,” says Stefan Hajkowicz, a scientist at CSIRO’s Data61 specialising in future trends.

“Digital skills just got a lot more important,” he says. “There will be career pathways for data scientists, cyber security experts and people with skills in all aspects of digital technology. Mathematics, computational logic and coding are foundation skills for all things digital.”

Stefan Hajkowicz is a scientist at CSIRO’s Data61 specialising in future trends.

Building up soft skills will be equally important, adds Stefan. “Human-centred digital design puts the person at the centre. This requires skills in psychology, economics, management science and social science. It also requires emotional and social intelligence. There will be a big ‘how to’ question around adaptation to digital and that calls upon a broader skill set,” he says.

“Now might be the time to take advantage of a tectonic shift and build up your digital skills.”

Tech + health study

Tech + health jobs

  • Data analyst: AU$51K–$99K / NZ$48K–$86K
  • Machine learning engineer: AU$60K–$136K / NZ$54 (average)
  • Software engineer: AU$56K–$111K / NZ$51K–$97K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale.com

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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