Is your healthcare business on life support?
Are you experiencing a shortfall in patients, or are your existing patients fleeing to your competitors?
Do you know why?
Let me ask you a different question.
Has your healthcare business adapted to the digital revolution? Have you kept up with the digital transformation in healthcare? Do you offer on-demand services that are tailored to the unique needs of each and every patient?
Do you offer wearable medical devices that can provide you with up-to-the-minute information about your patient’s health so you can design a treatment plan that targets every existing symptom as well as possible symptoms that could occur?
Exhaustive, isn’t it?
But if you answered ‘no’ to any of those questions, you don’t need to fear, because you’re about to go on a journey that will give you all the information necessary to transform your standard healthcare practice into a thriving, digital monster.
And when you go digital, you’re not just making your work process more efficient, you are connecting more personally with your patients and providing them with more information so that you are both intimately involved in the healing process.
Patients who are more invested in their own well being are much more likely to provide referrals to your business, because they feel like you are responding positively to their every want and need. And that’s the goal of every business, whether it’s a company that sells software, or a company that sells health and wellness.
When it comes to innovation in business processes, I think we can all agree that the pace for the healthcare industry has been rather slow. Despite that, according to Mobi Health News, the healthcare market is enormous; with over $3.2 trillion of annual spend in the United States in 2015, which means 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 to factors such as stringent regulations, lack of universal standards are typically behemoth organizations with a lot of stakeholders, applications don’t meet the needs of users, and privacy concerns.
In fact, in a recent survey, only six percent of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies said they had gone digital, compared to 11 percent of companies in other industries.
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 into an office.
As technology continues to put everything at the touch of a button, consumers are demanding more from healthcare companies, whether they are pharmacists or primary care physicians.
With that said, let’s take a deeper dive into five major trends of digital transformation in healthcare, and how it can become a win for consumers and the healthcare industry.
1. The Rise of On-Demand Healthcare (why patients want health care on their own schedule)
When you think of the word ‘on-demand,’ you think of consumers who want things at their own convenience, at their own time, and wherever they happen to be.
Cable companies were the first to jump on this digital innovation after customers began wondering why they couldn’t watch TV programs whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted.
And the same type of revolution is starting to impact the health care industry, as patients seek on-demand healthcare because of 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 that people have just become far more mobile in the past decade, and one of the first rules of content marketing is that you must identify where your targeted consumers gather and reach them on those platforms.
Mobility is the name of the game, and studies have found that by 2018, 65 percent of communication between consumers and healthcare facilities will take place via mobile phone, tablet or laptop computer.
That’s not surprising given that 77 percent of U.S. residents own a smartphone. Furthermore, more than seven billion people throughout the world have a mobile phone subscription, a staggering increase from the 738 million subscriptions in 2000.
And when you factor in that 3.2 billion people globally are on the Internet, with two billion of them living in developing nations, you can start to see the possibilities that digital transformation in healthcare offers to those who jump on this technological train.
According to DMN3, consumers are going online to obtain medical information for the following reasons:
- 33 percent to research a medical condition
- 72 percent to research basic health information
- 47 percent to research doctors
- 38 percent to research hospital and medical facilities
- 77 percent to book medical appointments
Moreover, 44 percent of users who conduct research on a medical facility through a mobile device will schedule an appointment.
And typically those users also researched specific medical conditions before calling to schedule an appointment and converting from a prospect into a client.
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 one 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.
2. The Importance of Big Data In Healthcare
Another sweeping trend in digital transformation in healthcare is the growing reliance on big data.
Big data aggregates information about a business through formats such as social media, ecommerce, online transactions, and financial transactions, and identifies patterns and trends for the future.
For the healthcare industry, big data can provide several important benefits, including:
- Lowering Rate of Medication Errors – through patient record analysis, software can flag any inconsistencies between a patient’s health and drug prescriptions, alerting users when there is a potential risk of a medication error.
- Facilitating Preventive Care – some patients visit emergency rooms at a high rate; so big data analysis could identify those patients and create a preventive plan based on the illnesses or ailments that caused those emergency visits.
- More Accurate Staffing – big data’s predictive analysis could help hospitals and clinics estimate future admission rates, which helps these facilities allocate the proper staff to deal with patients. This saves money and reduces emergency room wait times when a facility is understaffed.
With these benefits in mind, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies should invest in organizing their data, and identifying all sources of that data to provide them with actionable methods of improving working processes.
That requires an investment in analytics experts who can crunch the data to not only identify areas of weakness, but to also help healthcare and pharmaceutical companies better understand their market.
For example, if you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, you probably understand that marketing dynamics are constantly shifting.
In fact, 26.5 percent 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.
But Big Data also allows healthcare marketing and sales teams to better identify their ideal consumer.
Healthcare businesses are no different than any other business, meaning that they are trying to identify prospects (patients), and market their services in a way that will best attract those prospects.
And a big part of identifying your ideal consumer is creating a customer persona, which compiles demographic information on what your prospects want and need, and the platforms where you can reach them.
3. The Growth of Wearable Medical Devices
Another digital transformation in healthcare trend is the importance of companies growing their own health data sources.
This refers to health and medical information that is compiled through data collected from medical devices, including wearable technology.
In the old days, most patients were satisfied with undergoing a physical once a year, and only checking in with their doctors when something went wrong.
But in the digital age, prevention and maintenance have become huge buzzwords in healthcare, and patients are demanding more information about their health much more frequently.
And this isn’t just on the patient side of things, because healthcare companies are being proactive by investing in wearable technology devices that can provide up-to-date monitoring of high-risk patients to determine the likelihood of a major health event.
According to Enterprise Tech, the wearable medical device market will grow by 18 percent every year for the next four years, with 130 million devices flooding the market by 2018.
Some of the most common of these devices include:
- Heart rate sensors
- Exercise trackers (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.
These devices can significantly improve the communication between doctor and patient, but there are other benefits for healthcare companies who invest in these products, such as:
- Personalizes the healthcare experience – the customer journey is just as important in the health business as it is in any other industry. Medical devices give patients a sense of ownership in the process of improving their health.
- Targets insurance pricing – information obtained from wearable devices can help insurers more accurately rate a patient’s risk for illness.
- Provides insurance incentives – patients who take preventive measures to improve their health can obtain lower insurance premiums.
- Provides gamification opportunities – some medical devices such as fitness watches can create competitive goals for users to achieve through exercise, diet and nutrition. And gamification has rapidly become one of the more effective ways for companies to market their products and services.
Furthermore, wearable technology can also help healthcare companies save money. One study found that through the data obtained from remote monitoring of patient health, companies could save $63 million for every 100,000 patients in the U.S.
4. Predictive Healthcare
Earlier, we touched on how big data could provide healthcare companies with predictive analysis about admission rates and help them properly staff their facilities.
But another trend in the digital transformation in healthcare is predicting what illnesses and diseases will become major problems in the near future.
Information aggregated through Big Data and other marketing sources can help healthcare companies develop healthy lifestyle recommendations for their patients.
For example, you could hire an analyst to analyze keyword activity across social media channels and on major search engines to determine the most common searches for medical conditions, illnesses and general health.
The analyst could then develop a predictive model that would anticipate where and when the next big health scare will occur, and how your company can prepare for that event.
But on a smaller scale, predictive analysis could help businesses of all sizes determine when to hire temporary staff due to future outbreaks of colds and flu that could result in a worker shortage.
5. Health In the Palm of Your Hand
The fifth and final digital transformation in healthcare trend is that consumers want to be able to access all aspects of their health in the palm of their hand.
Gone are the days when all medical information was under lock and key of doctors and surgeons, and patients had to sign away their lives to access their own health information.
So what does that mean?
It means that the healthcare system is undergoing a seismic shift in how information is obtained and disseminated.
Through tools such as online patient portals that provide medical test results, diagnosis and explanations of illnesses, and through medical devices that instantly monitor a number of bodily activities, patients are now becoming participants in their well being, rather than just tools upon which doctors ply their trade.
And that hasn’t just improved the interaction between doctor and patient, or healthcare company and consumer; it has also allowed doctors to analyze patients in real-time.
If you think about it, what does it really mean when your FitBit says you’ve completed 14,000 steps in a day. Or that your heart rate reaches 150 when you are exercising?
By itself, that is just information which doesn’t become valuable until doctors and medical analysts transform that information into actionable knowledge about how those 14,000 steps helped you burn a specific number of calories, and that increasing those steps by a specific amount each day will help you maintain your ideal weight.
The point is that while digital technology is a valuable tool in healthcare, it’s important to remember that it is still just a tool.
Your Goal Is To Make Lives Better Through the Digital Transformation in Healthcare
If you’re in the health industry, you should use digital technology to make the lives of your patients better.
As with any business, the goal is to create products and services that improve lives or fulfill a want or need. People want to be healthier, so the technology that you use in your digital transformation must fulfill this goal.
Your job should you accept it, is to build experiences with the client at the center of everything you do.
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.