Contributors: Inga Walter and Nathaniel Hook
To learn more about Inga and Nathaniel, click here.
Healthcare has historically been a national affair and executive vacancies, whether on the clinical or administrative side, tend to be filled with domestic talent. Not only do regulations and accreditations change from country to country, but language and culture also play a big role.
There are, however, increasing global career opportunities for healthcare executives. We have seen especially U.S.-based academic medical centers and hospitals (Mass General, Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic, to name a few) forging alliances with existing hospitals or lending their names, “brands,” and knowledge to greenfield facilities in, say, the United Kingdom, Asia, or the Middle East. Such organizations must broaden their horizons to recruit new leaders. A U.S. health system creating an alliance overseas has many considerations to take into account when it comes to sourcing talent. Within the region or country they will be able to find talent that understands the local market, language, and culture, but at the same time, overseas (U.S.) expertise on the clinical and operational side is necessary, as it is the very reason these partnerships were established in the first place.
What does this mean for healthcare executives looking for career opportunities? More than before, there are global career opportunities in healthcare. This is especially true for clinical leadership positions such as department chairs, CMOs, and CNOs, where there is an increase in opportunities globally due to shortages in many countries. CEOs and COOs are also highly sought after for opportunities overseas. On the other hand, organizations tend to recruit for a CFO or CHRO locally or domestically, as these roles require executives to understand and successfully navigate the local regulatory and health systems.
The revolution towards a more digital, consumer-oriented brand of healthcare will also present cross-border career opportunities. In fact, the inevitable convergence of healthcare and technology is set to be the defining theme within global healthcare over the next ten years. This includes integrated hospital EPR (Electronic Patient Record) systems designed to cover all aspects of patient care and management, and we have seen the rapid emergence of mobile health and wearable apps, underpinned by cutting edge healthcare analytics and clinical decision support tools designed to help clinicians improve the quality of care delivery across all clinical settings.
Healthcare transformation which places technology-enabled service redesign at the heart of key decision-making will demand leaders who truly embrace a new operating paradigm and are thus able to demonstrate strategic innovation and creative contribution. These leaders will be particularly marketable in a more global healthcare environment in which an organization’s leveraging of technology will provide a clear competitive advantage. Roles such as Chief Digital Officer, Head of Artificial Intelligence, Head of Customer Experience, and Chief Innovation Officer will become more prominent, and the executives who can fill these roles will be able to market themselves to employers in various countries and regions.
Whether or not healthcare executives can succeed as they move across borders is another matter. The ability to embrace and successfully operate in other cultures when taking up a role in a foreign country is perhaps the most important criterion. Such culture fits (whether societal or organizational) are case-by-case evaluations and come down to a very individual selection. There are few executives who have the skill to adapt to just about any culture, but those who are perceived to have that skill tend to be in extremely high demand.
For those executives who want to consider a position outside their own country, we suggest the following: consider whether your current employer has overseas initiatives that you could get involved with or help to develop; if not, reach out to institutions who do have existing global initiatives or are building them and inquire about the possibility of getting involved.
Healthcare executives in key leadership positions (CEO, CMO, COO) will increasingly get approached by executive recruiters for overseas opportunities at some stage in their careers, especially if they can prove some prior international experience or interests. If you are passionate about the idea of working internationally and feel you have a unique skill set to offer as it relates to overseas opportunities, find out which recruiters have an active international client portfolio and approach them to express your interest. They may have a few ideas or suggestions for you or perhaps even have a relevant search to consider you for.
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