Designing an optimal healthcare strategy in the digital era is a complex and challenging task for most C-Suite leaders.
Some of the main reasons for this complexity are the fast paced technological advances we are witnessing in this digital era, the flurry of dynamic integrations among healthcare and IT companies, as well as disruptive new entrants into the healthcare industry such as Google, Amazon, Walmart, CVS etc.
C Suite leaders designing healthcare strategy in this digital era need to be aware of the latest technological trends and be highly digitally literate in order to make sound decisions. In the past, having strong business- and financial acumen was sufficient. Now they are expected to also know about Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Wearables, Telehealth, Nanotechnology, Robotics, 3D Printing, Blockchain etc.
These are also the same factors that have caused many experts to label our current era as the 4th industrial revolution, which is defined as a blending of boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds.
The barriers that are considered most challenging by most healthcare leaders faced with designing an optimal strategy are: the incongruence between emergence of new technologies and the traditional 2-4 year strategy lifecycles, legacy budgeting systems that are not flexible and lack of agility in the strategic deployment. Additionally, they are facing a shift from fee for service reimbursement towards value based care payments, which places additional burdens when trying to show a positive return on their investments.
In reviewing numerous strategies that have failed, what are some of the pitfalls to avoid? Some of the major ones published that resonate with most healthcare enterprises are incoherence, incongruence, and inconsistency according to Deloitte. A latest Forbes article quotes a McKinsey source which also identifies “fuzzy definitions” as a main cause for failed strategies and highlights the importance of digitizing the current business in parallel with deploying innovative technologies when designing a successful healthcare strategy in this digital era. Even venture capital and life sciences executives have openly admitted after attending the latest JP Morgan Healthcare conference that digital era, digital medicine and digital health are confusing terms and definitions need to be defined more clearly. So what are they? Digital era is described as a “shift from an industrial- to an information-based economy by using technological devices as a medium or communication”. Digital health is defined as a convergence of digital technology with health, health-care, living and society to enhance delivery of care and facilitate the transition towards a personalized/precision medicine approach.
On a positive note, there are also several lessons learned about drivers of success in designing an optimal healthcare strategy in this digital era. “Choosing what not do” remains the essence of a sound strategy as Michael Porter has outlined repeatedly. Furthermore, clearly identifying the value proposition, understanding the intricacies of the national healthcare ecosystem and considering the competitive landscape are frequently cited as key drivers by successful healthcare leaders.
The digital era has also triggered a transition towards a consumer-centric and virtualized medicine design in order to meet the needs of the current 4th industrial generation. Design thinking, on-demand healthcare, direct-to-consumer advertising and sales are now part of the common healthcare strategic portfolio.
Lastly, in this digital era it is imperative for a state-of-the art healthcare strategy to be aligned with an exponential medicine vision that is aiming to optimize global population health. Genomics and precision medicine-based novel solutions have the potential to act as disruptors and facilitate a change from sick-care to well-care.