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Strategy for Emerging Digital Health Innovations

June 22, 2017 // Erik Nelson

Healthcare is on the cusp of disruption, driven in large part by the efficiency gains, outcome improvements, and convenience offered by emerging digital innovations. Dramatic change is inevitable due to costs reaching an unsustainable $3 trillion, a relatively slow adoption of digital solutions, and innumerable emerging innovations flooding the market. While there is near-universal agreement that the healthcare market is going to change, it is unclear exactly how digital innovations will disrupt the healthcare industry.

Remaining Competitive Amidst Ambiguity

The ambiguity in the marketplace makes it particularly difficult for organizations to know what they must do now to stay competitive in the long term. In particular, integrated health systems and providers are in a quandary. They must determine how to move forward within the confines of an evolving payer landscape, a heavily regulated environment, and a capital-intensive, high-cost infrastructure.

It is difficult to predict which digital innovations will do the disrupting and what the specific impacts will be. As such, organizations must work to understand what innovations are occurring within each step of the care delivery process so they can respond accordingly. In other words, what each organization needs is a digital health strategy that addresses emerging innovations.

Creating an Emerging Digital Health Strategy

To create a good digital health strategy, you must base it on robust market and industry intelligence, an assessment of existing capabilities, and an understanding of specific actions you need to take to achieve a desired strategic position.

  • Market and industry intelligence. The sheer level of digital innovation that is occurring is mind boggling. Even on a macro level, it’s hard to categorize and track developments that are occurring throughout the world, let alone the thousands of niche developments, R&D projects, and start-ups that are emerging and occurring every single day. Despite the difficulty in accessing reliable information, it is critical that your organization has a pulse on what developments are occurring around you. The options for assembling this information are numerous, including internal market research, external subscriptions, and/or advisory support. To make the market and industry information useful, you need to organize it around your core processes. This process helps you focus on information that is relevant and provides a model by which you can evaluate and prioritize opportunities.
  • Assessment of existing digital capabilities. Even after you gather market and industry intelligence, the sheer volume of activity and number of opportunities to consider is overwhelming. To provide further focus and prioritization, it is critical that you take an honest assessment of your current digital capabilities to help identify the areas most susceptible to disruption. The more manual, expensive, and important a process is to customers and patients, the more at risk it is to disruption. These insights will allow your organization to prioritize which categories of innovation it must assess, track, and possibly incorporate.
  • Strategic assessment and planning. With fresh insights gained from focused intelligence and self-assessment activities, your organization can create a meaningful and impactful digital health strategy. This is a process whereby you vet specific innovations for maturity, proof of concept, and success in the marketplace so your organization can define its approach toward high-priority innovations. In some cases, your organization may choose to simply track a promising innovation, or test an innovation in a self-contained pilot, or it may decide to fully embrace an innovation that is actively disrupting its market.
  • Governance, structure, and process. Creating a digital health strategy is not a one-time exercise; it is a dynamic, collaborative, and participative process. And, it will only succeed when there is clear accountability, a process that continually assesses risk, and adequate resources needed to ensure a successful outcome.

Evolution Is Inevitable   

Digital innovation is changing every facet of healthcare; organizations need to adapt along with it or face obsolescence. While a well-defined digital health strategy doesn’t guarantee success, it is the first step to guiding an organization on its transformational journey.