Dr Amandeep Hansra
We speak to Amandeep Hansra as part of our Digital Health Leaders series. The full article is available here.
Dr Amandeep Hansra is a Specialist General Practitioner and a leader in digital health and telehealth services in Australia. Amandeep is the Founder of Creative Careers in Medicine and separately provides digital health consulting services to hospitals, insurers, start-ups, health services, investors and businesses.
What was your first job out of University and how did it shape your future career?
When you finish your medical degree, everybody’s first job is pretty much the same, they are all interns. I was an intern in the Hunter region up near Newcastle.
The thing I loved about my junior years is that you got a chance to rotate across different specialties and get good exposure to all the possibilities in terms of specialty training for medicine. I feel that it gave me a good grounding and understanding of what my options were, in terms of a traditional path in medicine; I realised that I loved everything and couldn’t decide what path to follow. So, that was my first experience of realising I was going to have trouble committing to one specialty because I found everything so interesting and fascinating.
What was it like being awarded the “Women Leading in Business Scholarship” for the Global Executive MBA at the University of Sydney?
To be honest, I kind of threw my hat in the ring to apply for that degree, not sure that I would even get a spot. I heard it was really quite competitive to get into the executive MBA and because I hadn’t followed a traditional corporate career, I wasn’t really sure that I was the target market for them. I went along to the interview thinking I’m lucky if I get in, and not only was I lucky enough to get in but then I was offered a scholarship, which was pretty incredible.
EMBAs don’t come cheap and you had to travel for this particular Global EMBA, and so it does take that pressure off which was fantastic, but it was also great to represent women. There were only a few women in our cohort, and I was the only woman with children. To be able to inspire other women to think that it doesn’t matter, if you have to juggle parenting duties and work, that you can still pursue further education; It has been a great opportunity that’s come out of having that scholarship. It’s often something that people find lots of reasons why they can’t do, they put it off or say it’s not the right time; my advice is that there is never a right time and we’ve got so much going on in our lives, so if you really want to do something then you’ll make it happen.
It was amazing experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Who has inspired you most in your career?
For everyone, there are various people along your journey who you have crossed paths with, who I think can see the potential in you, or encourage you. One of the first people that I came across was when I was quite young. I worked in an ice cream shop while I was still in high school around age 14, and I remember the owner of the ice cream shop. He used to be in the finance industry and had given up his career there, to go and open an ice cream shop and to me it was such a contrast from what he was doing previously; but he really encouraged me, even at that young age, and said you know you’ve got a sort of an entrepreneurial spirit and I can tell that if you’re going into business, you’ll be good at it.
I’d always had my heart set on doing medicine so I couldn’t really understand how the business side could come into that, but all these years later it kind of has. He taught me to follow your passions and that you can “chop and change”, you can have completely different careers and I think after he finished working at the ice cream shop, he actually sold it and bought another completely different business. I just loved his ability to reinvent himself at any point when he felt like he needed a fresh start. He was one of the first people to inspire me, in the sense that you could do anything and try lots of different things.
Ongoing for me now, the other inspiration really for me are my children. Every time they see something come to fruition like Creative Careers in Medicine, they learn something. They watch all the hours that go into a project and then they come to the conference or they see me speak, or they see an outcome from all the hard work; I can imagine their little brains thinking, and they begin to understand this is the kind of satisfaction that you get from creating something. They’re constantly giving me feedback that they really want to grow up and do something similar. One of my children has just signed up for entrepreneurship classes at high school and I think that’s because I’ve inspired them, but they have also inspired me, and so I guess they’re the ongoing inspiration for me now.
What do you consider the most rewarding job you’ve had?
It’s really hard to choose because I’ve done so many different things.
There’s probably been a couple of things that were very rewarding, one was when I was working for an Aboriginal Medical Service a number of years ago as a GP in the outskirts of Newcastle, I found working with vulnerable groups really quite satisfying. I’ve always had an interest in the public health and Indigenous health sectors, so it was great being able to influence, particularly young Indigenous Australians, and inspire them to make them feel like they could get out of their current situation, and change some of the generational issues. That to me, was probably the most satisfying job that I have had, unfortunately I got a bit burnt out. You do that day in day out, in some ways it does wear you down, there are a lot of social problems that you have to try and solve as well as the medical problems.
Now I’d really say it is Creative Careers in Medicine that is the most rewarding. The feedback we get from clinicians who have been burnt out or thinking about leaving medicine altogether and they suddenly find a community that supports them, has been great. Even though this is not really a job I guess it’s a passion project for me. It has given me a lot of satisfaction in what we’ve managed to achieve and create.
In addition to running CCIM, you wear a number of different hats. Could you outline the various roles you currently do?
I work part time as a GP still, it was very important for me to continue to do some clinical work; I never wanted to move completely to being non clinical, as I really actually love seeing patients. I also work as a consultant in the digital health space, helping organisations implement digital technologies, helping them understand the clinician engagement that’s required in their experience and their input.
I sit on the RACGP expert committee on practice technology and management and some other committees.
What were your reasons for moving into the digital health space?
I found that in medicine sometimes we can become a bit of an echo chamber of cynicism and we often sit around focusing on how horrible things are, and all the challenges that we have. This means we don’t spend time brainstorming solutions, thinking about the future and being positive. I found that the technology space allowed me to bring that positivity back into medicine.
Digital health is really about using your imagination, thinking what’s possible and we don’t often get to be creative or use our imagination much in medicine.
In this sector we get to look at emerging technologies and use our creativity to imagine what impact that technology might have on a particular problem in medicine. What impact could it have on clinicians, on patients and health outcomes? Could it improve clinician work experience, and could that solve issues like burnout and sustainability in the long term for clinicians?
I love the digital health space, because of the positivity and the future thinking; everyone’s in it because they’re passionate about it, it really is a choice to go into this particular space. So you are surrounded by such inspiring and enthusiastic colleagues.
How do you see digital healthcare space developing in the future?
I think we’re at a tipping point, when I entered this space nearly a decade ago when I first got involved in telehealth, it really was something that was unheard of. People thought you’re a bit strange if you’re working in telehealth, they often didn’t even know what it meant, we really were unknown. Now every health care organization I speak to, has some sort of digital health strategy, either telehealth strategy or technology strategy utilising emerging technologies. I’ve just seen it explode to be honest, and I think we are at a stage where we’re having the conversation, but we don’t know how to implement it well. We don’t know how we actually bring technology into the healthcare sector in a way that is affordable, efficient and that doesn’t disrupt workflows in a negative way. I think that will be the next step, now we’ve understood that there is huge potential and we’re all talking about it; how do we make it happen? Ten years from now we probably won’t recognise our health system.
Can you tell me about the partnership between yourself and Ccentric/Wavelength and what needs market needs will be meet?
The partnership came out of the Creative Careers in Medicine work, where we identified that there are clinicians who are thinking outside the square in terms of future roles and wanting to have some variety. Maybe not just away from patient facing roles, but also getting into leadership roles, or getting into digital health or working for other organisations rather than healthcare organisations that are technology companies, insurers, or other corporates.
What we realised in discussions with Wavelength, is they were really trying to explore that area as well. Together we landed on digital health as the ideal area to focus on initially. How we might be able to connect the needs of industry to have clinicians involved in digital health work, with also the growing interest from clinicians to get into this space.
I think Wavelength and Ccentric are in a good position with a history of recruitment. I’m not a recruiter but I’ve tapped into this network of clinicians and obviously Wavelength has industry insights into what’s missing. I think this is an area that needs some focus and attention, how do we meet the needs of the digital health workforce moving forward on both sides? and that’s why we decided to try and help each other.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I think many people would say I don’t have a lot of time outside of work which is probably true! I enjoy spending time with my kids, absolutely any moment that I get I’ll be doing activities with them. I am an avid traveler so any chance that I get, I’m on a plane and out of the country. I’ve seen a lot of the world, I’m trying to get up to 100 countries, I’m not far off! If I get time, I love reading, and I love getting out of town and exploring. But it’s about balancing travel, family and my work and passions.