Digital in Healthcare
Nicholas Mageras, Engagement Manager, Technology Solutions, Asia Pacific
Feb 22, 2019

Defining Digital

Every organization these days has a digital mandate to transform itself for the 21st century and with that digital transformation, drive overall business growth. However, no one can seem to quite define what exactly going “digital” means. Depending on the specific organization, audience, and context in which you are discussing, digital means different things to different people. That is OK – because there is indeed no one, clear definition – but it is rather a set of different guiding principles and disciplines all with the end goal of addressing business challenges and opportunities. Digital strategy can therefore be thought of as a smattering of different components:

  1. A way of doing business and organizational thinking
  2. A collection of end user-centric technologies and methodologies
  3. The underlying capabilities, solutions and services to operationalize those technologies
  4. The ability to create assets and actionable insights from the data captured by those technologies
  5. All focused on enabling new or enhancing existing business outcomes – “doing better things” or “doing things better”, across data, tools, channels, therapies

Just as important in baselining an understanding of what digital is, is clarifying what it is not. Some of the common misconceptions that have surfaced also create unnecessary confusion:

  • IT Strategy 2.0. IT strategy by nature is usually and historically siloed within the CIO’s organization to solve existing and specific technology related issues. Digital strategy on the other hand should always be embedded in the business and driven by actual business challenges and goals as well as the desire to innovate new solutions.
  • Only mobile apps and social media for marketing purposes. Mobile apps and social media tools are an essential part to any digital and multi-channel strategy –the front-end engagement and experience layer in which users interact – but capturing that data is useless on its own. A true digital approach ensures that data is integrated and turned into valuable assets for the business to capitalize.
  • The magic bullet for solving all your organization’s problems. Companies most certainly need to think and be digital in this day and age to survive. However, the AI, automation and data analytics capabilities that form the foundational layer for a digital strategy must be augmented with actual human beings to apply their business acumen, subject matter expertise and real-world insights for a truly comprehensive strategy.

Decoding Digital in Healthcare

Now that we understand digital can help us do more, what exactly does it mean in the healthcare world? Quite simply, digital enablement in health takes those same digital strategy principles and applies them with a healthcare stakeholder-centric perspective (i.e., patient, payer/provider, pharmacist, health system, etc.) to improve health outcomes and achieve clinical and commercial business goals.

Digital healthcare solutions can therefore be bucketed into broad, overlapping categories all under the umbrella of generating actionable insights from health data that is generated, captured and stored:

  • Mobile Health Apps & Devices – Tools: mobile health applications, devices, and sensors that allow feedback in real-time between HCPs, sales reps, patients and other healthcare stakeholders while collecting meaningful data and providing an enhanced user experience
  • IoT & Connected Health Platforms – Channels & Therapies: digital assets integrated and transformed into medical products and services, creating actionable insights for product development, marketing and patient engagement/treatment purposes
  • AI and Big Data & Analytics – Data: enhanced data science, management and analytics for better knowledge across the healthcare value chain (drug development and launch, care pathway optimization, micro-targeting of health information to patients/providers, etc.)
  • Cloud & Automation Solutions – cloud-based solutions such as on-demand infrastructure and integrated EMR systems, allowing greater access, performance and scalable compute power at lower cost

IQVIA also takes the perspective the digital landscape in the healthcare industry can be further deconstructed by Digital Engagement – which covers the tools above that enable deeper two-way communication processes between patients, consumers, and providers, and Digital Trade – which concerns itself with e-commerce platforms and also increasingly, globalization of the consumer healthcare supply chain.

The value-add of these digital health strategies and solutions can be realized across the healthcare stakeholder spectrum to meet both clinical and commercial business challenges. Below are just few examples of how digital health can create value and opportunities across different stakeholder groups:

  • Patients – personalized care and experiences, “ownership” of health record and lower transactional costs
  • Hospitals – integration of EMR systems, inpatient diagnostics and outpatient monitoring, automated billing systems
  • Payers – accurate health insurance underwriting and automated claims adjudication, decreased re-admission rates, fraud/waste/abuse prevention
  • Pharma (clinical and commercial) – optimized patient recruitment and clinical trial site selection, HCP and patient segmentation and profiling, medication adherence, virtual detailing, digital marketing/sales and digital therapies
  • Physicians – real time patient insights and alerts, telehealth and education, resource utilization
  • Medical Device – predictive maintenance, “product as a service”, remote patient monitoring in clinical trials
  • Consumer Health – brand loyalty, enhanced digital experiences for consumers, marketing and sales effectiveness
  • Governments, NGOs, and Non-profits – remote diagnostics and connectivity, EHR integration, disease tracking and population health insights, lower public health expenditures per capita, and advocacy group digital tools

The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science published a paper in 2017 [The Growing Value of Digital Health] that explores in detail how the measuring of digital health benefits is becoming empirically clearer across the healthcare spectrum. IQVIA performed extensive research (analysing over 500 clinical studies) to understand the clinical research landscape and where digital health tools have demonstrated effectively in treating different types of diseases. Through this research, we have evidence of what type of digital tools are most appropriate for different types of disease populations. Clearly, there is now observable evidence that digital is proving vital to improve health outcomes.

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