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December 15, 2021updated 03 Feb 2022 6:58am

CTO Talk: Q&A with HealthHero’s Richard Haigh

By Eric Johansson

Richard Haigh is the CTO at digital health platform HealthHero. Founder and CEO Ranjan Singh founded the startup in 2019. The company is betting that that more doctor consultations will be done remotely in future.

So far it seems to have paid off. In December 2020, HealthHero became Europe’s largest telemedicine provider after acquiring the much larger venture Doctorlink.

GlobalData estimates that the global healthcare industry was worth $8tn in 2018. No wonder, then, that innovative entrepreneurs try for a slice of the pie.

“There has been a surge of interest in whether or not better technology might extract greater efficiency gains,” GlobalData analysts wrote in recent report. “Thus far, the global healthcare industry – especially the US healthcare industry – has been slow to modernise due to the fact that the industry is complex, risk averse, and highly regulated.”

The researchers noted that the internet of things could accelerate the adoption of new technologies in the healthcare sector. To some extent, HealthHero is part of that revolution and, as its CTO, Haigh is at the centre of this movement.

Haigh joined as the CTO of HealthHero in April 2021 after a career that took him via the military and online gaming before his current role.

In the latest Q&A in our weekly CTO Talk series, Haigh tells us why he believes that computer-aided diagnostics will change the world of healthcare, why CTOs would benefit from a psychology degree – and reveals the real reason why he got a helicopter pilot’s licence.

Eric Johansson: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?

Richard Haigh: My career started with joining the military through university before I changed direction and went to work at an American consulting firm. I spent several years working on some of the largest tech systems in the media sector across Europe. From there, I moved to financial services – just at the right time for DevOps to become a thing – before getting a significant role in online gaming. Whilst there, I worked on some of the most transactionally hot systems in the commercial world, before moving to a well-known food delivery empire. And now, here I am in healthcare, CTO at HealthHero.

Where did your interest in tech come from?

From a very early age I was always fascinated in how things work. My parents encouraged this wherever possible – although not always with great consequences. I took apart one of my Dad’s early computers (literally into its component pieces – keyboard and all) with no obvious way for anyone, let alone me, to put it back together again.

As I grew up, this wish to understand tech only got stronger – be it push bikes or engines, I was always curious about engineering. I used to binge watch Open University late at night and I am pretty sure the launch of the Discovery Channel was one of my favourite days!

Which emerging technology do you think holds the most promise once it matures?

I think computer-aided diagnostic systems will change our world.  Imagine a point when no-one is told ‘if only we had caught this earlier.’ I don’t think it will make people immortal, but I think it will offer the best quality of life to everyone, for however long we live.

The convergence of medicine and tech certainly has some amazing solutions already, but I would love to be alive in 100 years time to see what else we have managed to achieve – who knows, maybe I will be!

How do you separate hype from genuine innovation?

Innovation for me has always been about delivering creativity. You separate the hype from the true innovation by understanding if delivery is feasible.

What one piece of advice would you offer to other CTOs?

Be as interested and enthusiastic about your people as your tech. I’ve often thought psychology degree would be as fitting as an engineering degree at CTO level – your people are not only your most important asset, but the most complex.

What’s the most surprising thing about your job?

I love talking to graduates and associates in the very early stages of their career.  I am always surprised at how enthusiastic and smart they are, and how much they already seem to have grasped in such a short time.

What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?

In the short term, I think it is making sure we use our tech for good and use it safely – be that our personal data or our continued reliance on tech for our general infrastructure. Beyond that, I tend to converge on ‘Elon’ thinking and see the challenge being related to the limited resources the Earth has for our race.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for fun?

I got bored one week when on an international project, and I started learning how to fly helicopters. If you want an engineering challenge, helicopters are an A+ candidate.

What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?

In the health sector there is still a pressing capacity and utilisation issue with healthcare professionals and a broken patient experience in many cases. This is coupled with a surge in demand for telehealth services. Through the use of tech, I see a way to add efficiencies to the supply side and better orchestrate the patient journey for the benefit of all. That’s part of our drive and mission here at HealthHero: to simplify healthcare, and improve lives.

In another life you’d be?

Tony Stark. He seems to have the best toys.