The digital transformation of the healthcare industry is in the news for a reason. According to Mobi Health News, the healthcare market is enormous, with over $3.2 trillion in annual spend in the United States as of 2015 — meaning the industry is ripe for massive investments in digital technology.
Unfortunately, the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors have lagged behind other industries when it comes to implementing digital strategies, due in part to stringent regulations.
And yet, digital transformation in healthcare is beginning to rear its head in innovations such as the growth of the telehealth market, in which patients can access physicians via a mobile device, and receive consultations without ever having to step foot into an office.
As technology continues to enable seemingly endless access to everything with the touch of a button, consumers are demanding more from healthcare companies.
Let’s take a deeper dive into five major trends of digital transformation in healthcare, and learn how new technologies offer a win-win scenario for both consumers and the healthcare industry.
1. On-demand healthcare
Mobile devices and digital innovation will forever shift the way patients access healthcare.
When you think of the word “on-demand,” you think of consumers who want things whenever — and wherever — they are.
Cable companies were the first to jump on this digital innovation after customers began wondering why they couldn’t watch TV programs when and where they liked.
Anytime, anywhere service has begun impacting the healthcare industry as well, with more and more patients seeking on-demand care due to their busy schedules.
But lack of free time and convenience are not the only factors behind the clamor for on-demand healthcare.
In fact, the biggest reason may be the shift to mobile over the past decade.
Studies have found that by 2018, 65% of communication between consumers and healthcare facilities will take place via mobile phone, tablet or laptop computer (unsurprising, given that 77% of U.S. residents own a smartphone).
According to DMN3, consumers are going online to obtain medical information for the following reasons:
- 33% research a medical condition
- 72% research basic health information
- 47% research doctors
- 38% research hospital and medical facilities
- 77% book medical appointments
Moreover, 44% of those users who conduct research on a medical facility through a mobile device will schedule an appointment. Typically, these users also research specific medical conditions before calling to schedule an appointment.
But on-demand healthcare is also driven by the growth of the gig economy, in which freelance professionals in various industries hire themselves out per job (or “gig”) instead of tethering themselves to a single company.
Companies such as Nomad Health – an online marketplace that links doctors directly with medical facilities for short-term work – are making it easier for physicians to provide on-demand healthcare to clients in specific circumstances that match their talents, expertise and schedule.
In other words, as doctors themselves become on-demand healthcare providers, they are better able to meet the changing needs of their patients, another benefit of digital transformation in the healthcare industry.
Bottom line: The growing number of mobile phones is empowering patients to make more informed decisions about their healthcare.
2. Big data
The applications of analytics to data will advance the healthcare industry from staffing to clinical research, to patient outcomes.
Big data aggregates information about a business and identifies patterns and trends for future use.
For the healthcare industry, big data can provide several important benefits, including:
- Lowering the rate of medication errors: Through patient record analysis, software can flag inconsistencies between a patient’s health and drug prescriptions, alerting users when there is a potential risk of a medication error.
- Facilitating preventive care: Certain patients visit emergency rooms high rates; big data analysis could identify those patients and create a preventive plan based on the illnesses or ailments that cause these emergency visits.
- More accurate staffing: Predictive analytics can help hospitals and clinics estimate future admission rates, enabling these facilities to allocate the proper staff to help with patients. This saves money and reduces emergency room wait times due to an understaffed facility.
With these benefits in mind, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies should invest in organizing their data and identifying all sources of data to provide them with insightful, actionable methods of improvement.
For example, if you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, you know that market dynamics are constantly shifting. In fact, 26.5% of IT leaders who work in the pharmaceutical industry believe that the biggest advantage of big data is how it helps them understand the market. And with that understanding, they can determine product iteration and product budgets based on existing and future demand.
Bottom line: Big data can be analyzed to provide numerous insights to healthcare providers to make better decisions that lead to improved patient outcomes.
3. Wearable medical devices
The rise in number of wearable devices has shifted patients’ focus to maintenance, prevention, and self-care.
Prior to the digital revolution, many patients were satisfied with undergoing a physical once a year, only checking in with their doctors when something went wrong.
But in the digital age, prevention and maintenance have become not only commonplace but expected, as patients are demanding more information about their health more often.
And healthcare companies are also proactively investing in wearable devices to provide up-to-date monitoring of high-risk patients. According to Enterprise Tech, the wearable medical device market will grow by 18% every year for the next four years, with 130 million devices flooding the market by 2018.
Some of the most common wearable devices include:
- Heart rate sensors
- Exercise trackers (e.g., FitBit)
- Sweat meters (used for diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels)
- Oximeters (monitors the amount of oxygen carried in the blood, and is often used by patients with respiratory illnesses such as COPD, and asthma)
While these devices can significantly improve communication between doctors and patients, there are other benefits for healthcare companies to invest, including:
- Personalization of the healthcare experience: The customer journey is just as important in healthcare as it is in any other industry, and medical devices give patients a sense of ownership as they seek to monitor and improve their health.
- Targeted insurance pricing: Information obtained from wearable devices can help insurers more accurately rate a patient’s risk for illness.
- Insurance incentives: Patients who take preventive measures to improve their health can obtain lower insurance premiums.
- Gamification opportunities: Devices such as fitness watches can create friendly competition for users using exercise, diet and nutrition games. Gamification has rapidly become one of the more effective ways for companies to market their products and services.
And wearable technology can also help healthcare companies save money. One study found that by using data obtained from the remote monitoring of patient health, companies could save $63 million for every 100,000 patients in the U.S.
Bottom line: Wearable devices can help patients, payers, and providers by delivering value regardless of their function in the healthcare ecosystem.
Your goal: to help patients live better
If you’re in the health industry, you should use digital technology to make the lives of your patients better.
Digital transformation in healthcare can provide an experience that levels the playing field so that consumers feel more empowered and more connected to the products and services you are offering.
When your healthcare organization goes digital, you’re not just making your work processes more efficient, you’re connecting personally with patients and providing them with better care. Ultimately, this grows your business while empowering patients to proactively manage their health.