The Digital Transformation in HealthcareBy Mario Muniz | Thu, 11/25/2021 - 13:51
As in many other industries, digital transformation has become a main strategy within healthcare, accelerated by the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed an industry that was already embracing a transformation process to center stage, changing demand and delivery around the world. The changes seen in the last year and a half are here to stay.
Even though the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, there are still companies in the health sector that are lagging behind due to their limited understanding of digital but also due to specific elements related to their own strategy, culture and organization. These companies are recognizing the urgent need to adopt digital transformation as a top priority.
Digitally mature companies differ from those in early stages of maturity in the way they strategize, implement digital, facilitate change, and scale initiatives. Perhaps this is because never before have so many technologies matured so rapidly at the same time: dynamic data, advanced analytics, automation, artificial intelligence, orchestrated technology, and precision engagement, among others.
The adoption of technology and digital strategies will need to consider short-term versus true and lasting initiatives, focusing on change management through all levels of the organization. Companies should understand where they are coming from and where they want to be in the future (Figure 1).
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem are increasing their focus on digital health (Figure 2).
Telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled medical devices, and blockchain electronic health records are just some examples of digital transformation in healthcare that are reshaping how interactions are taking place with health professionals, how data is shared among providers and how decisions are made about treatment plans and health outcomes.
To achieve true digital transformation, healthcare companies should understand and focus on their customers’ needs, whether they are physicians, patients, or payers. Understanding customers’ needs will help to address where to utilize digital tools and technologies considering whether the initiatives defined make commercial sense for the business or not.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed patients and physicians into a world of digital health tools. By keeping patients away from face-to-face physician interaction for periods, it has shifted care provision dramatically to telemedicine for remote or virtual visits.
At the same time, a concerned population turned to digital media on their smartphones as a source of information on COVID-19 and to look for advice to keep themselves safe. They similarly turned to apps, wearables and digital media to help them exercise and maintain their health (Figure 3).
Overall, the pandemic has amplified the need for care provision and remote patient monitoring outside traditional healthcare settings, patient self-monitoring using various connected devices, and digital therapeutics that can deliver interventions via apps.
Digital Health is transforming the future of healthcare. It is being applied across the full spectrum of healthcare, from the hospital to the home.
After the COVID-19 pandemic appearance, the new normal has required the generation of a personalized user experience. Defining the appropriate channel to communicate with each healthcare provider (HCP) has become crucial.
Before 2020, face-to-face (F2F) detailing was the main communication channel between healthcare providers (HCPs) and the pharma industry. Live e-detailing and telephonic e-detailing increased in importance, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, as the only alternatives to keep interactive contact between reps and physicians. However, HCPs still want person-based interactions (Figure 4), so the challenge to be faced now is how to combine both, F2F and digital interactions.
HCPs looking for greater value in interactions, are demanding:
• Digital patient education
• Education on remote patient care
• Information to help patients access labs, tests, and imaging
Technology is key as better use of more data will inform actions. According to Gabriela Lerma, Director of Multichannel Marketing and Medical Solutions at IQVIA, artificial intelligence will drive more “on demand” support for HCPs where they can streamline their workflows using AI-powered systems enabling on-demand healthcare providers to better meet the changing needs of their patients.
COVID-19 pandemic triggered the adoption of telemedicine in many countries. Reimbursement and regulatory processes are key to permanent uptake and growth.
Spending pressure on payers has increased significantly in recent years – exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic spending requirements.
Payer and health system engagement will become more sophisticated – pharma must continue to invest in understanding institutional stakeholders and in building relationships that go “beyond the pill.”
Artificial intelligence in healthcare
When we talk about digital transformation in the healthcare industry, it is well worth understanding the role of artificial intelligence in this journey. First of all, let’s define artificial intelligence as the processing of large amounts of data with the aim of identifying patterns and emulating an expected result automatically and intelligently.
AI is used in commercial pharmaceutical applications to predict patterns, such as which communities have the greatest need for a specific drug, which physicians are most likely to prescribe it, and which messaging channels and strategies will best resonate with healthcare professionals and patients. These tools have the potential to transform the commercial pharmaceutical landscape.
For example, they can determine exactly which doctors are likely to prescribe a medication, the marketing channels they are most likely to respond to, and the messages that will have the most impact. AI is a powerful tool at engaging patients and payers in conversations about the value of a product, to stimulate interest and support.
Artificial intelligence is more than just a digital transformation trend in healthcare. AI represents the ideal example of medical innovation (MI). Chatbots and virtual health assistants can fill a multitude of roles, from customer service representatives to diagnostics tools and even therapists. The real power of AI can be best observed in areas like precision medicine, medical imaging, drug discovery, and genomics.
While AI, including natural language processing and machine learning, is already being utilized to varying degrees in the healthcare environment, their use will become increasingly important in healthcare going forward as the means for:
- Improving provider and clinician productivity and quality of care
- Enhancing patient engagement in their care and streamlining their access to care
- Accelerating the speed at which new pharmaceutical treatments can be developed while reducing the cost in doing so
- Personalizing medical treatments by leveraging analytics to mine the huge amounts of noncodified clinical data that currently exist
Implementing AI solutions is one of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry today, but companies that leverage the best talent, technology, and data will be better positioned for business success.
Gabriela Lerma IQVIA’s Digital Marketing and Medical Solutions Director, says that the future of digital engagement for life sciences is grounded in collaboration and influence as follows: