Healthcare’s Digital Transformation Dilemma

Healthcare’s Digital Transformation Dilemma

There is a metaphor I’ve found myself using over the past year or two when talking to my clients in the healthcare industry about “digital transformation.” It isn’t perfect by any means, but it seems to adequately convey the healthcare provider ecosystem as it stands today.

“You’re standing on one side of a great river, with the heard at your back. You are part of a massive migration, your competitors and peers bunched around and behind you. The other side of the river is where your customer’s expectation and need keeps pacing beyond your reach. The river is murky, its depth and perils unknown. The river represents uncertainty. Everyone is watching, and waiting for one of you to break ranks and plunge into the waters–to see, without taking any risk, whether you will succeed, or drown.”

What I usually leave out is the reality that the ground behind them is also starting to recede (most people can only handle so much scary at a time.)

The Healthcare industry in 2016 is sitting on a real dilemma. SO many of my clients are major health systems, who are growing with acquisition and dealing with repeatable scale issues. And many of my colleagues in their marketing ranks see an opportunity to really innovate digitally; to differentiate themselves (and their brand) while truly offering value to existing and prospective patients, not to mention physicians. Customers want digital integration and innovation…. And most of my healthcare clients honestly want to innovate–they just don’t feel like they can, and their leadership always asks the question of whether or not they should.

The Opportunity

Integrated digital experiences have changed the way we seek information, interact, and make purchase decisions.

” More than 50% of Americans are Living with a chronic health condition.”


In an article published earlier this year by ReferralMD:

52% of smartphone users gather health-related information on their phones. That includes information about a specific medical problem or procedure, or diet, nutrition, and fitness-related information. Other popular health topics include:

  • Prescription or over-the-counter drugs
  • Alternative treatments
  • Health Insurance
  • Depression, Anxiety or Stress
  • A Particular Doctor or Hospital

It isn’t just patients, however. In an article published by Wolters Kluwer Health:

  • 72% of physicians access drug information from smartphones.
  • 63% of physicians access medical research from tablets.
  • 44% of physicians communicate with nurses and other staff from smartphones.


These are incredibly influential trailing indicators of the choices being made by participants on both sides of the care journey. We expect these numbers to rise both because of global smartphone adoption rates, but also because the opportunity to blend context-relevant experiences with patient/physician needs. We know that more than 50% of Americans are living with a chronic healthcare condition. Patients are consumers, and they are seeking not just to be treated–they are seeking partners in their healthcare providers, and they are seeking systems that can serve a wide-variety of needs. The patient wants to have a voice in their healthcare choices, and their access to information means that they will come increasingly informed and engaged to those interactions.

Evidence of the desire to use technology to bridge the partnership gap can be found in those health systems who actively use and promote the EMR mobile applications they have at their disposal. My family is currently part of the Northwestern Medical System in Chicago. Northwestern is on EPIC and they actively promote use of the MyChart mobile app for their patients. I was not surprised to learn that of those patients who have smartphones, the adoption rate is close to 80%. When my wife and I went through her pregnancy for our first-child, she ONLY interacted with her physician via the MyChart app, and the experience was exceptional.

“Integrate the system’s Find-A-Doctor, context relevant location & directions, clinical specialty information, EMR appointment scheduling, chat with my physician, and donation campaign interactions into one unified experience.”


Why then is there not a more concerted effort to integrate the non-EMR digital health information with this type of interaction? Consider–why not integrate the system’s Find-A-Doctor, context relevant location & directions, clinical specialty information, EMR appointment scheduling, chat with my physician, and donation campaign interactions into one unified experience? The first word of protest from most of my healthcare clients is HIPAA–but I think this shows a fundamental lack of understanding between secure, medial patient information and the marketing profile data that most consumers are accustomed to sharing with their mobile apps and on-line authenticated accounts. After all–Information is the currency of value–and most consumers understand and actively choose those interactions based on the value delivered.

Closing Thoughts

The journey to choose a healthcare provider is a varied one. It is emotional, personal, and assisted with both our online and offline sources and social circles.

We as consumers are choosing (overwhelmingly) solutions in our daily lives that help bridge these two worlds, the digital and physical–and in our consumer purchases we are overwhelmingly choosing innovation; voting both with our wallets and our loyalty.

Consider your Starbuck’s loyalty application, or the application you use to interface with your preferred Airline partner: Always connected, knowledgeable of your account and history, aware of your physical location, and seeking to provide context-relevant value. This is becoming the bar for customer loyalty.

Health system providers who understand these evolving interaction trends and acknowledge the opportunity will begin to invest in innovation and drive value to win the system loyalty competition. Those to step forward decisively, first will define for the entire market what digital empathy will look like in the new era of interactive healthcare–and become the market disruptor who will lead the pack.

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This article was written by

Brandon is a solution strategy leader with a strong background in helping companies adopt customer-focused growth strategies. With more than 15 years of experience, he specializes in helping clients create program roadmaps to deliver technology-enabled experiences to deepen the relationships brands have with their customers. His personal goal is to help companies charge hard towards strategic growth while remaining agile to the ever-evolving channels that enable those opportunities.