One of the most exciting developments on the healthcare horizon is Artificial Intelligence (AI). It can be called a game-changer, a disruptor or cutting edge…but, whatever you call it, AI is here to stay and already making a significant impact in healthcare.

So what is AI? It’s the science of creating intelligent technology that works and reacts like humans, especially in areas of speech recognition, learning, planning and problem solving.  Think of IBM’s Watson or, on a personal, day-to-day scale, Siri on your Apple phone. Both were developed using the principles of AI.

AI is very quickly being embraced within healthcare where, according to estimates by Accenture, it will generate $150 billion in annual savings within the U.S. by 2026.  Knowing that disruptive technologies of this magnitude require workers with new skills, knowledge and characteristics, I reached out to Ted Schwab, a business entrepreneur and healthcare strategist who is intent on delivering affordable and accessible healthcare to the general population. Ted, working closely with his client Babylon Health, is launching an AI-driven medical consultation and health service in the U.S. based on personal medical history and common medical knowledge. This new AI-based technology is already used outside the U.S. with great success by gathering data points from doctors, researchers, health records and clinicians. From Ted’s perspective, this algorithmic application has the ability to change our approach to healthcare by creating access to care that is more convenient, simpler and almost free.

Given his work in this arena and unique background, Ted was more than willing to share his thoughts on the skills a healthcare executive needs to possess in this brave new world of AI.  As we speed towards the future, what does a successful AI executive look like? What skills, knowledge, characteristics and background might this executive possess? Here’s what industry leaders like Ted are looking for:

At the top of the list is a sense of wonder and imagination: Since AI is uncharted territory, the ideal executive needs to be broad-minded, forward-thinking and possess a strong sense of adventure as, inevitably, part of the job will be to push aside many preconceived notions and old ways of doing things. Coming to the AI table with an unbridled imagination will be critical for these future leaders. They need to think of themselves as technological pioneers as they venture into new and unexplored territory. From a hiring perspective, this might entail looking for executives who may have non-traditional backgrounds, experiences and degrees. Thinking “outside the box” has never been truer.

A knowledge of, and interest in, human interface design: As AI technology evolves, this type of interface will become even more critical to AI’s future. Although the field is still in its early stages, a successful executive will need to understand how this burgeoning technology will affect AI’s future, its impact on regulations and ramifications for the end user. Being a tech-curious, astute and an early adopter will only help to fuel the executive’s success.

A willingness to embrace the scientific approach: Appreciating the value, importance and criticality of those in the scientific community needs to be uppermost on the priority list for this executive. Heightened awareness around problem-solving, understanding the scientific culture and mindset plus advocating for scientists in the business setting is paramount. Perhaps the most successful executives will, in fact, bring a scientific background of their own to the table?

A deep knowledge of regulations: In the ever-changing world of AI, regulations will continue to morph at an increasingly faster pace than in the past. Top executives need to be regulatory “gurus” who aren’t content to just stay current on the latest guidelines but will also take on roles as change agents who can potentially act as drivers on the latest and greatest regs.

Just as AI technology is reshaping the way we access our healthcare, there is a need to transform how healthcare providers (and, by extension, recruitment firms like TalentRISE) hire AI specialists. Added to the challenge of finding talent that meets all the criteria of the success profile above, the supply of talent with AI skills has leveled off according to a recent survey by Indeed while, at the same time, demand for AI-related roles has more than doubled over the past three years. That’s why it’s key to partner with a search firm with an understanding of this role as well as a proven approach to find the right executive, with the right profile for your organization.

Interested in learning how we can help? Please feel free to reach out for further discussions at or 847-308-3363.

Kathleen Murphy

About the Author

Kathleen Murphy’s executive search, recruitment and leadership coaching career -- with particular depth in healthcare -- spans more than 25 years with leading professional service organizations and Fortune 500 corporations.