Health care needs a digital transformation. Is it ready?

Our take on how health care can become digitally enabled

 

 

Health care is behind nearly all other industries on digital transformation. Covid-19 created an opening for change—purchaser demand for digital care skyrocketed and the unsustainability of the industry’s digital-averse business models were exposed. Venture investment dollars have flowed freely ever since. Innovators are capitalizing by advancing technologies that could help enable more scalable, proactive, and holistic care. In doing so, they could reshape how we approach existing and emerging challenges to health care’s business models, including health equity, senior care, and value-based care.

In other words, the ambition is large, and the stakes are high. Meanwhile, the barriers are many. The vast majority of organizations’ incentives run counter to the goals of the most innovative industry players. Industry leaders looking to make health care more digitally enabled will be poorly served by focusing narrowly on their own patients or piece of the care journey. Making health care truly digitally enabled will require changing the incentives that underlie industry dynamics altogether.



What is digitally enabled health care?

An end-to-end, omnichannel health care experience that relies on technology- and data-driven resources to facilitate proactive and holistic interventions and management at scale. Digitally enabled health care inherently advances adjacent goals business leaders across the health care industry share.


The conventional wisdom

Many health care leaders believe Covid-19 created opportunity for health care to become digitally enabled by changing legacy incentives that limited health technology adoption and creation. Their arguments are twofold:

  • Purchasers have seen how convenient and cost-effective health care can be. They will continue to shop for providers and partners that excel digitally. These purchasers include both consumers—65% of which intend to continue using telehealth after the pandemic is over—and employers—90% of which say they increased their focus on virtual medicine since the pandemic.
  • The pandemic’s disruptive impact on legacy business models, including staffing and payment, will open more organizations to the idea of digital innovation as a solution to these growing challenges. Many large health systems increasingly view virtual health care companies and large tech companies as risks to their core business: 82% of health systems view virtual care companies as top competitors—nearly as high as the 87% that view other health systems as top competitors.

Many leaders believe this shifting adoption landscape creates a large and growing market for new digital health companies to increase their market share in care delivery. Investors clearly agree, pouring $29.1B into digital health companies in 2021, compared to just $8.2B in 2019. Sustained funding at these levels, they believe, will increase the stock of innovative virtual care tools that come to market, furthering health care’s trend toward digital enablement. In time, health care will transform to become a digitally enabled enterprise.


Our take

Innovators in digital health indeed are enjoying newfound tailwinds supporting demand for their products. And many have provided a proof-of-concept for what digitally enabled health care could look like. Nonetheless, we believe it is dangerous for industry leaders to view current trends in digital health investment and adoption as a true victory in the pursuit of holistic, equitable, and cost-effective digital care for the majority of patients.

Excessive optimism is dangerous because the stakes are high. As Covid-19 helped demonstrate, health care business models, from staffing to payment to site of care distribution, are strained. Shifting from legacy business models to digitally enabled ones could enable sustainability where traditional approaches have failed. Three challenges particularly stand out to us for the role digital innovation could play in addressing them:

1. Promoting health equity: How can digital health help reduce disparities in care delivery, and ultimately, outcomes?

2. Caring for an aging population: What technologies can help reduce cost of care for the Baby Boomer generation as it ages into Medicare?

3. Advancing value-based care: What tools do clinical and operational leaders need to succeed under risk-based payment models?

We believe addressing these and other challenges require creation and adoption of digital tools that meet two requirements:

1. In their design, they are scalable, holistic, and targeted at the most complex, high need patients; and

2. In their adoption, they are widespread enough to be accessed by a large majority of patients.

Innovative organizations indeed are designing digital tools that satisfy the first requirement. Asynchronous monitoring and care management platforms, for example, enable clinicians to make smarter and faster patient care decisions without needing to see each patient in real time. Yet scalable innovations like asynchronous care are not representative of all emerging digital health tools. Many organizations continue to advance tools that fall short in three ways:


SPONSORED BY

INTENDED AUDIENCE

AFTER YOU READ THIS

AUTHORS

TOPICS

Don't miss out on the latest Advisory Board insights

Create your free account to access 2 resources each month, including the latest research and webinars.

Want access without creating an account?

   

You have 2 free members-only resources remaining this month remaining this month.

1 free members-only resources remaining this month

1 free members-only resources remaining this month

You've reached your limit of free monthly insights

Become a member to access all of Advisory Board's resources, events, and experts

Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.

Benefits include:

Unlimited access to research and resources
Member-only access to events and trainings
Expert-led consultation and facilitation
The latest content delivered to your inbox

You've reached your limit of free monthly insights

Become a member to access all of Advisory Board's resources, events, and experts

Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.

Benefits include:

Unlimited access to research and resources
Member-only access to events and trainings
Expert-led consultation and facilitation
The latest content delivered to your inbox
AB
Thank you! Your updates have been made successfully.
Oh no! There was a problem with your request.
Error in form submission. Please try again.