New report outlines digital models in healthcare

To succeed in the digital economy, health organizations will need to place people first and adopt strategies to scale expertise to meet changing demand, according to a new report.

The Digital Health Technology Vision 2016 report, published by Accenture, identified five digital forces that Accenture predicts will converge over the next three to five years to reshape healthcare delivery: Intelligent Automation; The Liquid Workforce; The Platform Economy; Predictable Disruption; and Digital Trust. The five digital forces Accenture identified and their likely impact on the healthcare industry are described below.

Intelligent Automation

According to Accenture, the health industry will increasingly embrace intelligent automation—powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and augmented reality – to streamline basic tasks, such as collecting patient intake data, enabling clinicians to focus where their training and experience have the greatest value. Significant investments in intelligent automation are already underway, as Accenture’s survey found that roughly seven in 10 health executives are investing more in machine learning and AI-related technologies than they were two years ago. Nearly half of health executives reported extensive use of automation for IT tasks (48%) and customer interactions (47%).

The Liquid Workforce

By exploiting automation to “free up” clinical capacity, the future workforce will be empowered by technology to scale clinical expertise to many patients, from wherever that doctor is working. This increasingly liquid workforce will allow health organizations to adjust and adapt to meet today’s dynamic demands. As patients expect the on-demand services they enjoy in financial services, entertainment and retail to permeate their health experiences, new options will emerge to tailor interactions and augment care services. Accenture estimates that by the end of 2019, roughly four in 10 people (42%) in the healthcare workforce will be contractors, freelancers or internal temporary positions. The survey found that three-fourths (76%) of healthcare executives believe a more fluid workforce will improve—not derail—innovation.

The Platform Economy

The platform economy will use digitally enabled business models to capture new growth opportunities and link patient experiences across the health ecosystem. Accenture estimates that demand for health APIs will grow 10-fold by 2021. Nearly 4 in 10 health executives surveyed (39%) believe that these online-based services – such as self-scheduling appointments, accessing records and tracking a patient’s activity from hospital to home – are very critical to their business’ success.  In fact, Accenture estimates that 7% of patients have already switched doctors due to a poor experience with online customer service channels, such as mobile apps and web chat, which could lead to a loss of more than $100 million in annual revenue per hospital.

Predictable Disruption

Just as platforms are disrupting traditional care models, Accenture believes predictable disruption will force health executives to expect the unexpected. To that end, 86% of healthcare executives feel pressure to reinvent their businesses before they are overtaken by competitors, or disrupted out of their markets. Increasingly, the legacy health system – hospitals, doctors and health insurance plans – are being challenged by start-ups and digitally-based innovators that consumers find more accessible, transparent and delivering greater value.

Digital Trust

As a growing amount of health data is managed in the cloud, digital trust will continue to play a major role in engaging stakeholders, healthcare providers and patients alike.  The Brookings Institute estimates that one in four data breaches happens in healthcare, and Accenture estimates that cyberattacks will cost hospitals  $305 billion over the next five years.  Bolstering consumer trust in health providers’ data stewardship is a key enabler to people engaging in their healthcare and embracing personalized medicine – which consumers want to do: Nearly two-thirds (65%) of health citizens in an Accenture survey said they believe that the benefits of being able to access medical information electronically outweigh the risk of privacy invasion.

“The outcome of a people-first, digital health strategy is that it liberates the healthcare workforce to focus on more meaningful work that requires judgment and personal interaction,” said Kaveh Safavi, senior managing director of Accenture’s health practice. “With the convergence of the five trends we’ve identified in our report, the health industry will increasingly tap digital technologies to augment human labor, personalize care and free-up time to focus on where they’re needed most.”

For this industry-specific research, Accenture gathered input from a survey of 600 doctors, 2,225 consumers and 101 healthcare executives.