Focus on digital transformation: 3 charts show healthcare's current state

Digital transformation is a top priority at most healthcare organizations today, but progress so far has been fragmented.
By Tom Sullivan
02:22 PM
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Almost everybody in the health IT world is talking about digital transformation right now. But the number of organizations able to actually achieve that feat is still small.  

The most intrepid health systems are evolving into information-driven organizations, harnessing digital health apps and devices, enterprise-wide software deployments, AI and machine learning, automation, sensors and more. Running analytics against a near-constant stream of inbound data from a growing number of sources helps them glean insights from patient populations and tailor personalized treatments.

All of healthcare is moving in that direction, but not everybody is there just yet. That’s why we at Healthcare IT News are focusing on digital transformation in May.

To better understand where various health entities are today, we surveyed providers, payers, and non-providers working in the industry to determine how they are prioritizing digital transformation, how much progress they’ve made to date and which technologies will be key to getting there.  

Let’s start with the prioritization.

Innovation is a critical or high priority for driving operational, financial and process efficiencies for 68 percent of research respondents, enhancing the patient experience and innovating new care models for 64 percent each and informing new treatments at 62 percent, respectively.

Innovating to gain market share is also a critical or high priority for 59 percent of survey takers, and 48 percent rank improving the clinician experience in that same category.

While it’s clear that digital transformation is a priority, and where healthcare organizations are focusing their efforts now, the natural question to follow is how much progress has been made to date?

The next chart answers that.

This is where the plot twists. Whereas 66 percent of participants have started down the road, 26 percent are making changes on a departmental or even specific use case level and 33 percent are making enterprise changes — but only 7 percent have a fully executed digital strategy.

Now that electronic health record platforms have reached near-ubiquity, however, that 7 percent number is likely to rise.

The next phase of digital transformation will be accessing, sharing and using the information as well as combining it with other data sources. Harnessing that information, of course, will require new technologies.  

Take a look at the technologies our survey-takers indicated will be the most important. 

Seventy-three percent of research participants ranked analytics/data management as the most important tool for putting health data to work.

Interestingly enough, because it’s still early and there’s so much hype, AI/machine learning was a close second at 66 percent. Cloud computing, meanwhile, was third at 53 percent. Not surprisingly, open source protocols including FHIR are also viewed as important.

Beyond the digital transformation basics of a connected platform on which data is being shared and used, some of the other findings on the slide immediately above point toward a future with 3D printing, IoT sensors, robots, virtual reality, and more enabled by the technological underpinnings being built today.

What to expect from our Focus on Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is inevitable. But there will also be pain points along the way. In a similar manner to how we focused on specific topics such as innovation, blockchain, artificial intelligence and more in months past, during May we will be publishing a series of articles on new avenues of technology-enabled care delivery.

Look for insights about the smart digital hospital of the future, steps to take on the road to digital transformation, case studies on tools such as telehealth, artificial intelligence and machine learning, success stories about how health systems are forging the future with technologies and more.

Digital Transformation in Healthcare

In May, we'll talk to experts and professionals on the front lines about what's really happening today with the digital transformation in healthcare and what hospital executives need to be doing right now.

Twitter: @SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.