For the past few decades, data in the healthcare industry has been trapped. Stored in paper-based records, there has been little opportunity to leverage it in any meaningful fashion. As such, healthcare companies have remained stodgy and technologically anemic even as the world changed around them, even as their consumers evolved from a passive to active role towards their own health. But healthcare organizations can’t remain blind to the role that technology plays in their business any longer. People’s expectations for digital experiences are pressuring healthcare companies to change the way they do business, to change the way they interact and engage with their consumers, and, as a result, to change the very fabric of how they provide their service. PricewaterhouseCoopers, in their recent report on how digital is transforming healthcare, sums it up perfectly:
Today the health sector faces a daunting new digital challenge: unleashing the power of technology to fundamentally reinvent how care is delivered. In the New Health Economy, digitally enabled care is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather a fundamental business imperative.
Healthcare companies must transform to meet these new consumer requirements or face a changing of the guard as innovative healthcare approaches (like OneMedical) jump in to fill the demand. According to PwC:
The care models of yesterday are inadequate to satisfy growing industry and consumer expectations. Digital technologies are the underpinnings for creating new care models. But the next five years will be critical in making the leap from using these technologies as add-ons to making them fully integrated tools that will allow for lower cost care alternatives and create data-rich insights into real-time care delivery.
The question is, “how do you transform?” Is it just a matter of selecting and implementing the right technology? We would argue that true “digital transformation” requires something more fundamental, something, as George Westerman and Didier Bonnet identify in their book Leading Digital, called Digital Mastery.
Striving for Digital Mastery
The problem that healthcare companies face isn’t one of a lack of technology. There are countless attempts to solve many of the critical healthcare industry problems with powerful software. But there’s a difference between implementation and adoption. How many times have healthcare companies implemented a technology solution (like EHR) only to stumble at its adoption? It’s not because healthcare companies lack the people or talent, it’s because they are not digital at their core. They still exist in the paradigms of the past where medical records are kept in manila file folders and hung from rollout shelves.
Digital Mastery, according to Westerman and Bonnet, is not just about the application of technology to solve problems or replace incumbent processes. It encompasses three characteristics:
- Improving businesses processes
- Redefining customer engagements
- Creating new business models
By using digital technologies to completely redefine the business, healthcare companies can remain relevant in an ever-evolving industry that is being driven by customer expectations for better experiences. Take Saga Healthcare in the U.K., for example. They are using new software that they developed in-house to drive an innovative digital business model for managing and delivering key aspects of a private healthcare at home service. The development and adoption of the new digital technologies will allow nurses, care professionals and back-office staff to interact with Saga online; patients and their families too. What’s at the foundation of Saga Healthcare’s transformation? They are building a new experience of engaging with the company.
At The Heart of Digital Transformation—the Customer Experience
Although there are numerous processes (like medial record storage and retrieval, like data collection) that must be redefined and re-envisioned, it is the customer experience that drives the business. OneMedical has done a fantastic job of building a new customer experience from the ground up based entirely on digital technologies. Through engaging and powerful mobile applications, patients gain access to a wealth of data about themselves and their visits. They also gain access to real-time scheduling. All of this digitization? It enables OneMedical’s practitioners to spend more time with their patients. Through their innovative customer experience, OneMedical demonstrates some of the characteristics of Digital Mastery as outlined in Leading Digital:
- Understanding customer behavior—“A Digital Master figures out what customers to and why, where, and how they do it. The company then works out where and how the experience can be digitally enhanced across channels.”
- Increase reach and engagement—“They provide user-friendly mobile apps, develop rewarding social media experiences, and rebalance their marketing spending to reinforce the engagement.”
- Customer data at the heart of the customer experience—“They become more scientific, using metrics and analytics to inform the change.”
- Mesh the physical and digital—“…not by replacing the old with the new, but by using digital technologies to enhance the customer experience by leveraging valuable existing assets.”
Companies like OneMedical and Saga Healthcare are transforming the way that care is provided. Not only are they redefining processes and even business models through digital technologies, but they have fundamentally re-imagined the customer experience giving us a clear glimpse into what the future of healthcare might bring.
The Future of Healthcare is Digitized
So what does the future of healthcare look like? From consumer wearables to biological implants, hardware will help quantize the human body. Imagine patients with wearable or subcutaneous devices that capture healthcare data automatically, syncing to an application on a smartphone where critical readings can be wirelessly transmitted to healthcare personnel and catalogued as part of the patient’s expanded health records. With smart systems hooked to massive databases, healthcare providers will even have the predictive capabilities to ascertain health problems before they arise, crunching numbers in powerful software applications while sitting with the patient.
In this vision, almost everything about the healthcare experience has changed—customer engagement, internal processes, and even business models. Think about what can happen when all of this data is collected, analyzed, and unleashed through powerful software. Providers could charge consumers for healthcare services based on their risk profiles. Rather than just asking them questions, the software behind this future analyzes, predicts, and offers a healthcare package (with the appropriate price tag) to meet the needs of each individual patient. An entirely new business model is born that keeps providers relevant and applicable in an ever-changing world.
Science fiction? Probably not and especially for the innovative and scrappy technology companies that are rushing into the healthcare space determined to solve many of its critical challenges with the latest systems. So where does that leave the incumbents? Without the digital tools to transform their old processes, on the sidelines. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
How Will You Capitalize on the Future?
The future of healthcare isn’t one of uncertainty. Change is happening thanks to digital technologies. What’s uncertain is whether the incumbent providers will be able to adapt quickly enough, will be able to achieve Digital Mastery and provide their customers with new, more streamlined business process, innovative business models, and enhanced customer engagement…which won’t happen by just pulling technology from the market. Healthcare companies must embrace change themselves and build the software to meet their unique requirements and needs. With a flexible and agile enough development platform, any healthcare organization can redefine its business to achieve the Digital Mastery that their consumers are coming to expect.
 Healthcare Delivery of the Future. November 2014. http://pwchealth.com/cgi-local/hregister.cgi/reg/pwc-hri-healthcare-technology-and-innovation.pdf