Senior healthcare professionals and industry observers have long believed that the healthcare business is behind other industries in adopting new technology and undergoing digital transformation. McKinsey has published a digital index1 comparing the maturity of different industries, which demonstrates healthcare among the least advanced sectors in digitalization, particularly regarding transactions, digital spending on employees and digital capital. However, exactly how far behind schedule is the healthcare system? The reality is more complicated. Digital maturity in the healthcare industry was found to be placed third in a recent survey of six different industries, with healthcare companies on average being a decade behind other sectors in implementing business technology that can improve consumer interaction.
Digitalization in healthcare
The rise of healthcare digitalization has transformed how we communicate with healthcare providers, exchange medical data, and make treatment and outcome-related decisions. Numerous examples support the digitalization of healthcare today, including AI-powered medical devices, telemedicine, blockchain, remote patient monitoring and electronic health records. The primary goal of healthcare innovation is to speed the work of medical professionals, enhance medical software systems, eliminate human errors, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs by integrating physical and digital experiences.
Over the course of the past two decades, a concerted effort has been observed to shift from paper-based records to electronic records by boosting the adoption of technology. However, to the frustration of policy makers, this did not fundamentally change how business is conducted and care is delivered.
Comparison of digital maturity in healthcare with other industries
Virtusa, an international digital engineering and IT outsourcing company, surveyed the digital maturity of companies throughout the world2. They commissioned Forrester Consulting to undertake research in September 2017 to assess the state of digital transformation in six key industries:
The study was used to create involvement from more than 600 digitization policymakers in North America and Western Europe, and 101 healthcare companies. Across all three categories, retail excels over other industries, setting the norm for innovative and digitally driven customer experiences. One of the leading causes of the decade-long delay for healthcare is that these organizations are subject to several different rules regarding the handling of patient data.
According to the survey, healthcare was ranked second in data optimization but came in last in self-service, online marketing and their ability to adapt to new business models. These organizations ranked fourth and fifth for customer service and business innovation, respectively. According to the report, the healthcare industry's conservative and highly regulated market places security above patient interaction. According to a new study, "health firms have made gains to survive in managing the data security – but most of their technology investments have been centered more on business operations and record-keeping at the cost of investments that tie directly to discovering new aspects of the customer (patient) engagement and innovation".
At Oracle Cerner, the gap between clients’ expectations of business transformation and the current state of conservative digitization in healthcare is not lost on us. This has led to a number of internal and client-facing initiatives aimed at reimagining clinical workflows, removing redundant legacy processes, improving information flow and its availability, and introducing newer, outcome-focused models of care delivery that leverage technology and automation.
Comprehensive information systems, like Cerner Millennium®, cover the end-to-end patient journey and hence hold terabytes of rich data from admission to discharge and everything in between.
However, according to some studies, less than 3% of this data is actually utilized for effective decision-making, while the remaining 97% is retained for record-keeping and safe storage. Organizations looking to climb the digital maturity model must focus their energies on reversing the above-mentioned ratio. Every click, every patient interaction and every diagnostic information entered into the system is potentially a crucial piece of a bigger puzzle for understanding disease patterns for a patient or population we serve.
Across the digital healthcare paradigm, efforts are underway to ensure organizations can see a clear path from digitization (introducing the digital equivalent of manual processes) to digital transformation (newer business models of service delivery). Some of the great examples are ‘reimagining workshops’ to highlight the impact of organizational inertia and legacy processes and try to challenge the status quo with an eye on creating efficiencies, patient centricity and convenience.
Healthcare's progress toward digital transformation has been gradual and unevenly distributed. Even so, it is unclear if such investments are making a difference in the world. Other industries face significantly less bureaucracy and regulation when it comes to integrating new digital capabilities. If healthcare executives focus on digital transformation rather than just digitizing current models, new ideas, regulations and cross-sector partnerships could begin to change that. There is a need to acknowledge the various unique challenges healthcare faces for digital transformation and employ collaborative strategies to counter them.
Even though the healthcare industry has been sluggish in accepting new technologies, there have been notable examples of development and innovation, providing some cause for optimism about the future of healthcare technology.