The world is going digital and healthcare is no exception. But how are the sector's technology heads facing up to the challenge of digital transformation? To find out, Harvey Nash and KPMG interviewed almost 200 IT leaders from healthcare organizations around the world - as part of a larger, pan-industry survey involving 4000 participants. The responses suggest that there is some way to go before digital becomes a truly integral part of wider strategy within healthcare.
Only 39 percent of healthcare organizations claim to have an enterprise-wide digital business strategy. Although this figure is above the average for the survey as a whole, it nevertheless suggests a sector struggling to establish the role of digital technologies.
As further evidence of the lack of digital maturity, a mere 18 percent of healthcare IT leaders feel their organizations have been very effective in using digital technologies to advance their business strategies. And less than half are confident that they understand the impact of digitization on the overall healthcare industry.
CIOs need to go beyond the technology and position digital as a business transformation accelerator and revenue generator. Which begs the question: should healthcare organizations view digital as something discrete - or see it instead as a fundamental part of core strategy?
Our findings reflect an increasing focus on the patient, with more than three-quarters of healthcare organizations stating that customer experience is an essential digital investment priority - considerably higher than the average for the survey as a whole. But the respondents also admit that, despite their best efforts, they are finding it hard to deliver on the customer promise. A mere 24 percent rate themselves as very effective at using digital to enhance the customer experience.
Indeed, across a range of essential digital, customer-related capabilities, healthcare ranks itself lower than other sectors. Less than one in five healthcare IT leaders believe their organization is highly competent at generating insights from customer data, gaining a single view of the customer, and using customer data to deliver personalized experiences. Without such competencies, the promise of a customer-centered organization is likely to remain unfulfilled.
Enhancing patient experience calls for integrated middle and back office capabilities, and the responses indicate that a majority of healthcare players (69 percent - versus 54 percent across the entire survey) are investing in improving business process efficiency through digital technology.
But despite these efforts, less than one in five believe their digital strategies are actually bringing the desired efficiencies. And just 15 percent feel they are successfully redesigning business processes to take advantage of digital technologies.
Healthcare CIOs, as in other industries, recognize that digital capabilities will underpin change or complete transformation in nearly every area of their organizations. But so far, they are at an early stage in this change journey. Digital transformation calls for a move away from traditional 'command and control' IT in favor of collaboration with the business and greater flexibility in applying standards and rules of engagement. Technology can enhance the user experience to reduce the likelihood of error; good system design should consider the user experience from the beginning of a project.
Ultimately, customer experience is not simply a question of providing good, safe treatment. As patients begin to take shared responsibility for healthcare, they expect personalized information about their condition to be readily available, including potential drugs and lifestyle changes. To meet this demand, healthcare providers may have to become platforms of knowledge, linking multiple stakeholders like physicians, life sciences and consumer health businesses, coaches and other patients.
But of course, they are likely to face intense competition from established big tech platform players, so may have to work jointly with other healthcare providers, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, emerging technology innovators and consumer health and lifestyle companies.
One of the big business challenges facing healthcare IT teams is to access, process and analyze data from an increasing range of sources like claims databases, outcomes studies, and other public and private data repositories. Fifty-eight percent of the survey respondents cite the delivery of business intelligence and analytics as a key expectation from the management Board.
Armed with the right insights, healthcare providers can highlight evidence-based practices, minimize clinical variation, streamline diagnoses, eliminate duplicative tests and procedures, and increase patient safety. And then there is the growing phenomenon of value-based payments, which in the US has doubled from 12 to 24 percent for health plans between 2015 and 2018.
Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations have been held back by lack of access to patient data as a result of poor internal and external interoperability.
Rather than try to do it all in-house, one way to improve data analysis is to partner with data and analytics specialists in order to make use of advanced cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Given that only 19 percent of IT leaders surveyed say their organizations have invested significantly in AI and machine learning, such partnering could make a big difference.
The technology skills gap is very apparent in the survey responses. Only 18 percent of IT leaders are comfortable that their organizations are effectively hiring and developing people with digital skills - compared with 24 percent across the survey as a whole.
But a truly digital workplace is about far more than simply hiring additional IT personnel. As intelligent automation comes into play, the workforce needs to be reshaped to become more agile and competent. In future, healthcare organizations are likely to be characterized by a combination of permanent staff, outsourced resources, skilled 'gig economy' workers taken on for limited periods, and external partners, all providing access to the most up-to-date skills - with digital very much at the forefront.
Automation should play a central role, not necessarily replacing jobs but taking over key tasks and freeing up workers to take on more strategic and 'human' roles. Against this backdrop, digital labor/automation is in its infancy (both in healthcare and elsewhere) with around one-fifth implementing such advances, predominantly in IT, customer support and HR.
Healthcare may be on the cusp of the digital era, but with escalating care costs, growing demand from elderly populations and chronic disease, and a severe skills shortage, there is an urgent need to accelerate progress. Digital has enormous potential to cut costs and improve outcomes through better monitoring and prevention and more targeted therapies, while harnessing intelligent automation to address the growing skills shortage.
More than half of the healthcare organizations surveyed have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or equivalent, which creates opportunities to shape the digital strategy. One of the biggest tasks facing these leaders is to unite the entire organization around digital, to create a compelling digital vision, to make digital an integral part of wider strategy and, crucially, to implement this strategy effectively.
In its 20th year, the 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is the largest IT leadership survey in the world in terms of number of respondents. The survey of 3,958 IT Leaders was conducted between 20th December 2017 and 3rd April 2018, across 84 countries. This article combines overall survey findings with the healthcare respondents' segment of almost 200 IT leaders.
Health leaders cite limited ability to share clinical information as key obstacle to value-based payment, Healthcare Financial Management Association, 13 February 2018.