Breakthrough technologies and digitization that have impacted almost every industry in the last few years are now also starting to bring about sweeping digital transformation in healthcare. Feeling the pressures of accelerated change, healthcare organizations are recognizing the importance of digital transformation and slowly—but surely and methodically—piloting new programs. They are realizing that current organizational capabilities to integrate and leverage data to drive better decisions are not sufficient to stay competitive and drive continuously improving quality care; they need to implement new technology systems and platforms that can deliver value, solve business challenges, and transform their traditional business models.
According to a recent study by SAP Center for Business Insight, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, healthcare organizations agree on the fact that digital transformation will bring positive changes, such as driving down costs and improving patient outcomes. The survey, based on a study of 400 global C-level healthcare executives, identified the impact—and progress to date—of digitalization efforts. In addition, healthcare organizations offered insights into the key technology investments in use today as well as their anticipated investments in the next two years.
The findings from the study reveal interesting trends about the state of digital transformation in healthcare. While some results were predictable to insiders and providers in the healthcare industry, others were a bit more surprising. Here’s a look at five key findings from the data.
1. Digital transformation is critical to survival
Anyone in healthcare will admit that the industry has been slow to adopt new practice models, business processes, and technologies to adapt to rapidly evolving regulations and shifts in payment models, making digitization a slow grind. Patient records jumpstarted the first wave of transformation in the industry, as most have moved from their paper-based origins to electronic health records (EHRs).
Now, other pieces in the healthcare value chain are following suit. “Digital transformation in healthcare is making forward progress but it is a long journey,” says Martin Kopp, global general manager, healthcare providers, SAP Health. “Healthcare organizations are increasingly open to pulling in the best practices found in other sectors and realizing that they have to run operations in a more data-driven fashion. Doing so will help them manage value and improve the quality of care.”
The survey showed that healthcare executives know that digital transformation is necessary and will have a great impact on the success of their organizations. Digital transformation is seen by the greater percentage of companies to be important or even critically important (61 percent) to their survival today. In two years, that importance climbs to 76 percent. In five years, it rises to 86 percent.
“Healthcare organizations are looking for new care delivery models and cost-effective services they can provide to patients in hospitals and beyond their borders,” says Dr. Anette Grossmeuller, expert precision medicine, SAP Health. “These models require the reimagination of existing business processes and depend on new types of digital technologies driving the access to many new data sources”
Regarding long-term growth, most healthcare organizations (58 percent) believe that digital transformation has helped to increase their profitability and allows them to readily enter new markets. Digital transformation is also believed to help them attract and retain talent.
2. Technology investments are increasing
The survey showed that technology is clearly viewed as essential to healthcare organizations’ growth, retaining competitive advantage, and improving customer experience. The organizations believe that their greatest competitive advantage in the digital economy will come from using the latest technology (82 percent). The organizations also expect to see more value coming from their existing investments.
Technology spending will be shifting somewhat over the next two years, with organizations investing in Big Data and advanced analytics, cloud, and mobile. The shift to connected digital health networks is also elevating the need for improved security investments. Several emerging technologies will get a booster shot, as healthcare organizations plan to invest in Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning/AI, robotics, and virtual reality (Learn more about this survey finding).
These technologies are part of the digital transformation prescription aimed at improving patient care. “The major health organizations are collecting and sharing all types of digital patient data, including imaging and genomic information,” explains Enakshi Singh, senior product Specialist, SAP Health. “Healthcare organizations are starting to get insights from these data sets that they didn’t have before. New technologies can cleanse, harmonize, and analyze data.” She notes that the next step in digitization is to integrate applications that provide the analytics needed for real-time clinical decision support.
3. Healthcare organizations are in the early stages of the digital transformation journey
Despite progress, healthcare organizations are still in the preliminary phase of increasing investments in technology. Many are only planning or piloting digital transformation initiatives at the departmental level to bring about the changes they perceive to be critical to their ability to compete and thrive. Very few healthcare organizations in the survey (2 percent) responded that their digital transformation was mature across the enterprise.
Some of the early successes in digital transformation have come from centers focused on treatment of a particular disease, such as cancer. “Cancer care is a unique trailblazer, as it has genetic components and is a molecular disease,” says Singh. “By using analytics platforms, healthcare providers can better evaluate the role of genetics and drug interactions on particular types of cancer. As we get more and more data, we can start to better understand cancer and its causes and treatments.”
4. Digital transformation is a core business goal
While healthcare lags behind other industries in digital transformation, it is starting to catch up. “Healthcare organizations are actively considering how to compete in the new world. They are moving to digitalization to help measure and improve the quality and value of services delivered across the continuum of care,” says Kopp.
The survey showed that the percentage of total budgets dedicated to digital business initiatives will rise during the next two years, and several factors are fueling this increase. In the survey, 63 percent of companies said their digital transformation efforts allow them to compete more effectively with large companies. And 60 percent said that digital transformation is a core business goal.
5. Digital transformation is necessary for the shift to value-based care
Digital transformation is helping healthcare organizations raise their reputation and visibility in their communities. In the next two years, healthcare organizations expect technology investments to provide value in customer satisfaction and engagement and innovation.
“Digital innovation will fuel the next wave of breakthroughs in healthcare and accelerate the broader shift toward data-driven care for health organizations,” says Kopp. “Unlocking actionable data insights in real time is critical for the future success for value-based care.”
Delivering value with digital transformation
Healthcare organizations recognize the potential cures brought about by digital transformation. With increased cost pressures, healthcare organizations are striving to standardize and streamline administrative processes for greater efficiency and improved operations. They also have an increased focus on providing value, which can be achieved with new technology platforms.
With aging demographics and the rise of chronic diseases, healthcare organizations are investing more in digital transformation technologies that can support improved decision-making by providing data-driven insights for personalized clinical treatments and optimized patient outcomes.
Want to learn about how SAP Health is helping healthcare providers on their digital transformation journey? Download the “The Future of Digital Health” white paper.