Healthcare's digital IQ gets assessed

By Erin McCann
10:57 AM
A new report highlighting the correlation between digital technology and company performance or profitably spanning 11 different industries underscores a few surprising things about the healthcare sector and its digital IQ. 
Nine out of 11 industries rated cybersecurity top of mind for technology investments on which to focus. The healthcare sector, however, was one of two industries that did not consider cybersecurity as being in their top five strategic technologies concerns, according to the new PwC Digital IQ Survey released last week. 
Data mining, private cloud, mobile apps, social media and digital delivery of services, however, did prove top of mind for healthcare executives.
The survey, including responses from some 1,500 business and IT executives, assessed the digital IQ of various industries and found a correlation between high digital IQ and performance and profitability. And, despite healthcare being considered one of the last sectors to embrace innovation, the majority of health industry executives (65 percent) rated their organization's digital IQ "strong" or "very strong," higher than five other sectors and slightly behind the -- many say much more advanced -- financial industry, which stood at 69 percent. 
"Today, all roads lead to digital. From business strategy to execution, digital technology has become the foundation for everything we do," said Chris Curran, PwC advisory principal and chief technologist, in a March 27 statement announcing the report. "You can't afford to underestimate digital. Through all of our research, CEOs have made it clear that they see both the promise and the peril of digital technology and we believe that charting their company’s course in the digital age is the number-one challenge business leaders will face in 2014."
PwC researchers identified five behaviors that enable organizations to accelerate their value from certain digital investments.
1. The chief executive officer must actively champion digital. PwC’s analysis revealed some 81 percent of top performers say their CEO is an active champion in the use of IT to achieve business strategy, compared with 68 percent of other companies. The healthcare sector reported the highest level of active-champion CEOs, researchers point out. 
2. Strong relationship between chief information officer and chief marketing officer. Healthcare was among the top three industries that reported strong, collaborative relationships between CIO-and CMO. The real issue here is "the visibility of digital investments across the C-suite," said PwC researchers. "Without it, companies may make missteps that could cause longer-term damage," including hindering business analytics, mergers and acquisitions and developing new products and services. 
"Failing to involve the CIO in market-facing innovation -- where digital technology is a primary driver -- is counter-intuitive," said Andrea Fishman, a PwC advisory principal, in a news release. "Get explicit agreement between the CIO and CMO on who owns the initiatives, the role each leader will take on, and when and how they are expected to work together."
3. Outside in approach to digital innovation. According to PwC researchers, many companies fail to cast a wide enough net when searching for innovative ideas and people. Top performing companies, the report suggests, were those that both utilized talent internally and also looked externally for innovation. Some 36 percent of healthcare executives reported finding innovation outside company borders, with 31 percent of them looking internally.
Contrastingly, 46 percent of executives in the technology sector looked for innovation outside company lines. 
4. Significant new IT platform investments. Across all industries, cybersecurity -- with the exception of healthcare and communications/media industry -- the cloud, and data mining/analytics were all considered the top IT investments to make in the coming years. 
5. View digital as enterprise capability. "Companies that demonstrated these five behaviors were twice as likely to be top-performing companies, in revenue growth, profitability and innovation," added Curran.