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As a life-or-death industry, healthcare is always mission-critical. The modernization of healthcare through Digital Transformation (DX) efforts, while underway, is well overdue. COVID-19 globally disrupted healthcare and catapulted it into everything from virtual care to intelligent capacity planning and the most rapid vaccine rollout in history. According to IDC, 90% of healthcare organizations accelerated their DX efforts during the pandemic or were on the same path as they were before. IDC data also showed that 83.9% of some 1,500 U.S. survey respondents who had a care visit had a virtual visit for the first time, 1 of 5 respondents downloaded a virtual care application in advance of needing it, and 72.5% used a front-end conversational AI chatbot or symptom checker.
Healthcare is transforming faster than ever before with a focus on digital resiliency, service innovation, and growth. As the industry continues its DX journey, it must respond to a barrage of pre-existing (e.g., aging populations, people living longer with chronic conditions, value-based care, cost pressures, shifting regulations) and emerging challenges (e.g., new COVID-19 variants, talent shortages, the rise of consumerism, and increasing cyberthreats). A key challenge is that healthcare organizations are drowning in data they are collecting from the edge, network, core, and cloud but not using. Healthcare data is rapidly proliferating and expected to reach the 4 ZB level in 2022 and 10 ZB by 2025. With that, DX seems to be happening at a scale and pace greater than most organizations can leverage to fulfill the promise of better care.
To modernize effectively, healthcare organizations need a coherent data infrastructure. There is no empathy without intelligence, and up to 80% of clinically relevant healthcare data exists outside the EHR. Therefore, health IT leaders need to find new ways to align DX efforts with organizational goals. This alignment will help organizations tap into relevant data sources, put health information into context, and infuse digital resiliency into business, clinical, and operational models. In other words, healthcare must shift its focus from data-rich to data-driven to improve clinical decision-making, relationships with patients, and outcomes. By making this shift and aiming for data excellence, organizations will harmonize and treat data as an asset with particular attention to its management and quality. IDC predicts that by 2022, 20% of healthcare organizations will have achieved such levels of data excellence and that by 2023, 30% of business and clinical decisions will be informed by AI insights that will revolutionize human-machine collaboration and the future of work.
Additionally, IDC predicts that by 2023, 65% of patients will have accessed care through a digital front door as healthcare providers look for better ways to improve access, engagements, and experiences across all services. There are many interpretations of what a digital front door is in healthcare. IDC defines it as “all the touchpoints where providers and payers can digitally interact with patients or members to drive better access, engagement, and experiences across the service continuum.” The emphasis on access, engagement, and experiences signals a detachment from the old ways of doing things towards scaling service capacity beyond the physical walls via virtual care and digital touchpoints in response to care-seeking consumer needs and expectations. The digital front door is not a front-end initiative that points individuals to the service (e.g., via open-access scheduling or telehealth) but a vast array of technologies and capabilities combined into a unified technology vehicle, fabric, or layer that spans across the service to meet the person where they are — from when an individual realizes a need to get care, through the various stages of service delivery, and beyond.
Finally, data storage, protection, and recovery strategies are equally vital for modernization. Data is vital to mission-critical applications in healthcare, such as EHRs. There can be no downtime. However, consider how quickly digital footprints are expanding through such digital front door initiatives as an example or that health records can reach up to $1,000 per patient. Also, recently, there has been a spate of cyberattacks in healthcare, including phishing schemes, ransomware, and brute force attacks. Rogue activities happen in a range of ways and target different individuals, groups, and systems.
A recent IDC survey revealed that only 60% of respondents had a good understanding of what data to protect and how to protect it. Therefore, health IT leaders must focus on data protection and recovery, especially since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced strict requirements and responsibilities surrounding data storage, retention, and ownership. Healthcare organizations can only be as prepared and ready as they can be for a potential attack. Still, the highest cost relates to data recovery. Assessing solutions for HIPAA-HITECH, SOC2, PCI, and HITRUST standards serve as a primary line of defense. Minimizing downtime and ensuring low recovery point and time objectives during any attacks will help ensure a faster recovery.