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Digital technology has had a tremendous impact on the healthcare industry. We now have new tools and solutions for more patient-centered approaches to care, improved user experiences, streamlined delivery of services delivery, and improved administrative operations. 

As people place a higher priority on healthy living and as our societies age, demand for medical goods and services will only continue to increase. Medicare is expected to experience the fastest spending growth among major industries. US health spending will reach $6.2 trillion by 2028, impacting virtually every functional area and outpacing GDP growth over the same period:

National health expenditures projection

Even before the pandemic, technologies like telemedicine, wearables, cloud services, IoT in manufacturing, and digital commerce were already changing the healthcare industry. 

This rate of change will accelerate as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, public agencies, and others in healthcare embrace online collaboration and digital tools that streamline operations and improve care.

What Is Digital Transformation in Healthcare?

So, what is digital transformation in healthcare, and why does it matter? How do healthcare and digital transformation go together? It’s about improving the customer experience at every turn. It’s about maximizing existing digital resources, investing in new ones, moving to new business models and channels such as B2C or B2B eCommerce. In even simpler terms, it’s about maximizing technology’s positive impact on healthcare. It’s about dismantling legacy IT components, creating new systems and new business models, and adding value to patients, caregivers, and shareholders.

But it takes more than technology for a successful project. It’s the people, processes, and execution that bring success to a digital transformation. A holistic approach to the healthcare digital transformation provides a better experience for patients, providers, and insurers. Streamlined processes reduce the reaction time for clinicians, and this improves the overall quality of care.

Let’s take a look at the key disruptors and trends and review examples of successful digitalization projects in healthcare.

What Are the Digital Transformation Trends in Healthcare?

We’re seeing the development, approval, and distribution of vaccines at rates thought to be impossible. But technology is making it happen. Mckinsey believes that the global biological revolution – biomolecules, biosystems, and bio machines “could address 45% of the global disease burden today”. Gene editing technology like CRISPR and cellular therapies repair and replace damaged cells, to treat conditions like chronic cardiovascular and heart disease.

Four arenas for digital revolution

The potential for this revolution goes well beyond the healthcare industry. It will have a profound impact on agriculture, biodegradable materials such as plastics and fabrics, and the use of sustainable processes in energy generation and manufacturing. The application of these technologies could quickly create trillions of dollars in economic impact worldwide.

Tackling COVID-19 only scratches the surface of digital transformation possibilities for the healthcare industry. Healthcare digital transformation trends in research, manufacturing, and customer experience are shaking up the status quo and tearing down legacy processes.

Customer Experience

In healthcare, timing is everything. Data quality is critical too. Something as simple as a miscommunication leads to adverse consequences. Rising costs may degrade the customer experience but new connectivity allows doctors and patients to collaborate more closely. Technology improvements in healthcare are quickly revolutionizing the customer experience.

Wearable devices

Not long ago, patients with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes relied on guesswork, pressure monitors, or glucose test strips for monitoring.

Wearable devices are quickly changing the lives of millions that need continuous monitoring and make data transfer of physiological indicators effortless. Portable devices send data to physicians and mobile apps connected to eCommerce APIs automatically reorder insulin and other medication.

The growing awareness of fitness training and other health-conscious lifestyle choices drives changes in healthcare.  Frequent reminders and encouragement keep those that start working out on track. Fitness trackers monitor calories burned, steps walked, and even pull in data from dieticians and nutritionists and their products via eCommerce sites.

Global wearable device market

[Source]

Wearables drives changes in healthcare at breakneck speed. Globally, the wearable device market will grow 20-30% over the next five years. As patients become more health-conscious, comfortable with telehealth and remote patient monitoring practices, the use of consumer-focused wearable devices will continue to increase.

Telehealth

Telehealth is not new in the US. Online physician consultations crossed the 30 million mark in 2017. The pandemic accelerated telehealth adoption.

During the initial surge of infections, doctors treated a record number of patients virtually. As social distancing measures remain in place, so does telehealth’s popularity. Telehealth is attractive to those with mobility issues and is a highly effective care model when medical resources stretch as patient inquiries rise. And the vast majority of patients report overwhelming satisfaction with their telehealth experiences.

Telehealth phases over history

[Source]

Telehealth impacts adjacent services as prescriptions are processed digitally and patients use self-service eCommerce to make pharmacy purchases.

Connected devices

What does it mean when your iPhone says you completed 5,000 steps in a day? For many, that’s trivial information. But when that information is combined with your medical, prescription, and diet history and is transmitted to a physician offering feedback, this information takes on a whole new meaning. Connected healthcare applications provide numerous benefits: 

  • Instantaneous data streaming 
  • Real-time patient monitoring  
  • More accurate diagnoses 
  • Instant access to medical history and imaging. 

The IoMT or internet of connected medical devices, is a fast-growing trend in healthcare:

Global IoT Healthcare Market Size

[Source]

Like other trends, this one is also pandemic-driven. Unfortunately, more data means more security challenges. The scale and variety of cyberattacks in healthcare rises with the data volume. Fortunately, connectivity technology enables real-time device monitoring, better lifecycle management, and effective cybersecurity protection.

AI and automation

In the medical industry, AI in eCommerce represents the convergence of multiple technologies such as data analysis and machine learning to hyper-personalize medical services.

AI application ranges from relatively simple algorithms that deliver test results and high-quality CAT scans in just seconds to identifying pathogens and predicting future outcomes based on human behavior. Accenture identifies the top three AI applications as robot-assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistance, and workflow automation.

Top AI applications

[Source]

Inefficient workflows and administrative tasks waste an enormous amount of time, especially when healthcare organizations rely on legacy systems. For example, a workflow automation engine is essential for business transformation, and so is knowing what to automate to meet patient needs and achieve overall business success.

Cloud technology

The days where medical clinics make you wait a day to get a manila envelope filled with x-rays are over.

The health industry manages mountains of data, from patient records to procurement data, to partner relationships, and billing records. Transmitting data to the right individuals facilitates better and faster decision making. Aside from obvious benefits such as reducing wait times and improving productivity, another benefit is the increased depth of data analysis and integration.

Medical Supplies and Devices

Research and design

As patients acclimate to telemedicine, remote care, and personal data sharing, new demands will arise. AI, connectivity, big data, and 3D printing will positively impact the product development process for many healthcare organizations. And as customer feedback and user testing data becomes more accessible, products will improve starting in the research and design stage. 

Manufacturing

Manufacturers are historically early adopters of new technology to improve their manufacturing processes. A digital transformation of backoffice activities is long overdue for many of these companies. 

While automation tools, robotics, and 3D printing technologies speed prototyping, reduce human error, boost productivity there’s more technology can do. A digital transformation helps build new relationships and create B2B and D2C ecosystems with a medical eCommerce platform.

Supply chains

For medical supply businesses, de-risking their supply chains is the name of the game. Supply chains must focus on building tensile strength and developing contingencies to protect against external factors that may disrupt deliveries to key markets.

Telemedicine will continue accelerating the demand for in-home treatment and product deliveries, so fulfillment systems must accommodate the changing model. Supply chains are focusing on the secure transfer of physical items such as medication, samples, and biological material, a task that previously received little attention. Demand for self-service will also lead to more customer-focused supply chains that bring together medical retailers, physicians, and patients.

Examples of Successful Digital Transformation in Healthcare

No matter where we live and what we do, disruption and change are the one constant in our lives. For the healthcare industry – one the largest and fastest-growing globally – the impacts of digital transformation are being felt across verticals and national boundaries.

Here are some examples:

Increasing ecosystems disrupted by non-traditional entrants

On-demand, AI-enabled, predictive, and personalized treatment

Innovations in eCommerce, supply chains, and manufacturing

  • Singapore-based Structo 3D printed a million nasopharyngeal (NP) testing swabs per week.
  • Kwipped created a medical-only niche in their B2B marketplace for the lease of medical equipment.
  • Medical supplies distributor GI Supply expanded their digital presence to 40 countries after launching an eCommerce platform.

ecommerce replatforming guide

Challenges to Healthcare Digital Transformation

Now that you understand the benefits of digital transformation in healthcare, are there any downsides?

Of course, but these downsides present opportunities to innovate. A digital transformation starts with people and providing them the incentives, education, and workplace culture to support the change. It also reaches deep into the organization and touches all aspects of your business and the ecosystem in which it operates. Here are the three of the greatest challenges faced by a digital transformation in healthcare market: 

Regulatory

In a previous post, we predicted that the healthcare compliance act (HIPAA) would evolve to clear the way for digital transformation. Since then, some US health insurers and Medicaid programs have started supporting telehealth reimbursements. Many other regulations such as Software as a Medical Device guidelines are constantly changing to ensure patient safety and clinical effectiveness.

Cultural

Organizational culture and mindset are one of the top three challenges to healthcare digital transformation, according to McKinsey. Building a culture of responsibility as well as compliance during digitization initiatives is a challenge to healthcare businesses. A resistance to change is normal, so ongoing education across the organization is a must during the transformation process.

User adoption

Some technologies, such as cloud computing, experience lower than average adoption numbers in the healthcare industry. Digital transformation often requires industry-wide adoption among end-users. To be effective and reach its goals, patients, medical providers, stakeholders, and employees across departments must use the technology as prescribed.

Expertise

Many healthcare businesses lack a deep understanding of the customer experience and market trends and others lack in-house IT and business development expertise to drive meaningful change. Not all businesses have the monetary resources or the channels to obtain an investment, so their digital transformation initiatives quickly run out of steam.

In a digital transformation, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Even when you think things are under control, they probably aren’t. Keep a digital transformation consultant at your disposal. Engage a partner early in the process to keep the transformation on track and assist with identifying and resolving roadblocks when they appear.

Five Steps to Digital Transformation in Healthcare

It’s important to get your digital transformation off on the right foot and that means onboarding the entire company from the start. As you progress, you’ll need to address questions about customer expectations, employee adoption, technological capabilities, and recognize improvements to make along the way.

  1. Audit your current state.

Whether it’s to improve the customer experience, company performance, or better align yourself to your market – the first step to achieving goals is clearly identifying them.

  1. Identify your goals.

Whether it’s to improve the customer experience, company performance, or better align yourself to your market – the first step to achieving goals is clearly identifying them.

  1. Invest in digital assets.

Your digital investments are the tools to create new revenue streams and business models, and your leadership teams must fully understand this imperative.

  1. Analyze your plan.

A digital transformation plan must take into account key performance indicators and maintain a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Pay attention to the effects of your plan on your processes, employees, and across patient experiences.

  1. Build ecosystems. 

B2C and B2B businesses such as pharmacies, biotechs, device manufacturers, and medical suppliers must grow their ecosystems. Buyer-seller B2B eCommerce driven ecosystems provide value and return to various stakeholders.

How Oro, Inc Transforms Healthcare Businesses

Your digital transformation and digital presence go hand-in-hand, and Oro, Inc offers a range of solutions to help your healthcare business grow.

These include OroCommerce, a B2B-focused eCommerce platform and OroCRM, a client relationship management (CRM) system fully integrated into the former. Designed for unique regional requirements, approval processes, and various corporate structures, Oro solutions accommodate the needs of healthcare organizations in any industry. After implementation, medical brands usually recognize the benefits of:

  • Greater insights into digital interactions and purchases
  • Flexibility and ease of personalizing the purchasing experience
  • Growth in average order value and lifetime customer value
  • Streamlined RFQ, CPQ, and QTC workflows.

Healthcare companies like Midway Dental transformed their business by digitizing their sales process with digital commerce. They realized their previous solution was not up to the task, slowing down their catalog management functions and making it difficult to add new products. Over time, maintaining their platform got getting more resource-intensive, and it became difficult to grow their business. 

As they started looking for alternatives, they realized that switching tens of thousands of SKUs and prices, complete with customers and their loyalty programs was no easy task. Fortunately, OroCommerce not only offered a robust OroCommerce solution, but also an experienced solutions integrator who understood Midway’s requirements. The partner connected Midway’s Epicor P21 ERP system with OroCommerce, turning a challenging migration into a simple one.

After migrating to OroCommerce, customer adoption was quick and the change was well-received, leading Midway to rapidly expand their product catalog, which greatly boosted user engagement, and in turn, sales.

Start Making Healthcare Digital Transformation Inroads Today

The healthcare industry is huge and poised for massive growth. The changes brought on by COVID-19 and advancements in technology are raising powerful questions such as: What do physicians and their patients want? What is the role of governments and other institutions? And what digital solutions can fill the gaps in the healthcare industry?

Don’t limit your digital transformation to spot treatments and don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with what is possible. Your digital transformation must be central to your organization’s innovation strategy and chart your path to the future.

If you’d like to learn more about the B2B eCommerce software market, download IDC’s comprehensive state of B2B eCommerce report below.

idc marketscape report b2b ecommerce

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