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Digitally enabled healthcare is the integration and application of data, analytics, and insights into digital technologies that will continually improve healthcare delivery, experiences, and outcomes. Digital transformation is the unification of those technologies into all areas of a business — changes that can help connect the dots to make the healthcare system more seamless and integrated, while advancing patient data protections.

The concept of digital transformation in healthcare is a priority for many companies, but the actual implementation is a complex evolution that involves changing expectations and technologies that build on each other to deliver even more personalization. Consumers today expect and deserve more from their healthcare experiences, including the same convenience offered from ecommerce: In a 2021 survey, 75% of consumers said they prefer digital tools to engaging over the phone or via other methods across all healthcare-related activities, such as scheduling healthcare visits or searching for healthcare-related costs.

These technologies are helping the healthcare industry meet people’s health needs when, where, and how they want them met, with services such as telehealth and integrated mobile health apps. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how important technology is to make healthcare more accessible and consumer-centric, and the industry is responding.

What Is Digital Transformation in Healthcare and Why Is It Important?

Digital transformation is a broad term, and the process can seem overwhelming, requiring extensive time and resources to do correctly. Despite the challenges, however, digital transformation in healthcare is essential: It leads to higher quality and more convenient care.

The idea is the “big picture.” Consumers, care providers, and all healthcare stakeholders need to benefit on every level of the healthcare process, from how treatment options are considered to how data is shared to bill processing. Digital transformation in healthcare is all about innovation, with a goal to streamline workflows, optimize systems, reduce human errors, lower costs, and improve health outcomes through technology.

The Top Six Digital Transformation Trends in Healthcare

What are the key trends driving digital transformation in healthcare?

  1. Interoperability: The ability for multiple systems to exchange health information and use it to improve healthcare is a big one. Interoperability means breaking down silos and connecting and communicating data between systems, in a secure and privacy-protecting manner. Interoperability initiatives are underway, but true value comes from bi-directional data exchange. Blockchain technology is essential to scale interoperability, not only as a technology but as the catalyst that allows companies to work together on shared problems. Blockchain technology improves efficiency and accuracy in processes that require industry collaboration.
  2. The Connected Spectrum of Care: Today people want a range of options for connecting with their doctors, whether it’s though in-person visits, a virtual portal like our Sydney app, or digital communication — or a combination of all three. Virtual care can be personalized to a person’s unique care needs through AI-driven modeling and analytics, improving the personalized healthcare experience. Virtual care reduces the need to drive to appointments, reducing the carbon footprint on the environment.
  3. Strategic Partnerships: One organization can’t solve all the healthcare industry’s challenges. Partnering with other healthcare stakeholders allows greater collaboration when working toward solutions. For example, the Digital Data Sandbox is Elevance Health’s free rapid insights discovery engine that offers the ability to discover insights, build and train algorithms, validate solutions with experts, and then deploy those solutions. And Avaneer Health is an interoperable, participant-based network that was created as a collaboration with Aetna, PNC Bank, IBM, HCSC, and Elevance Health to securely address data flow inefficiencies while protecting privacy.
  4. Data-Driven Insights: Digital transformation includes creating a digital-first healthcare experience for personalized, predictive, and proactive treatment. AI plays a big part in this as it improves analytical processes and support to care providers, meaning more efficient treatment considerations and better individual outcomes that bridge gaps in care.
  5. Digital Health Tech at Home: As consumer expectations evolve, people are looking for more innovative ways to simplify their healthcare experience. Creating at-home digital health tools — such as an Alexa Skill for our affiliated health plans, which lets people quickly order prescription refills and access many other health plan benefit information through voice activation — is just one way to address this. Remote health monitoring devices allow people to work with their care providers to gather health information at home. Tytocare, for example, has created a medical exam kit that can be paired with telehealth visits to provide virtual urgent care at home, anytime. 
  6. Consumers Driving their Healthcare: Consumers search more than 1 billion health-related questions a day. In a recent study, 80% of individuals prefer to use digital tools to communicate with clinicians. Whether it’s through connected tech devices and mobile phone health apps, by doing a web search for symptoms, or by researching physicians online, consumers are taking a more proactive, independent approach to their healthcare.

The Benefits of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

While some of these technologies are still fairly new, the beauty of digital transformation is that it helps organizations become more fluid so they can easily adapt as these technologies continue to evolve. Embracing digital transformation to form a consumer-centered healthcare system helps personalize the healthcare experience for individuals, create more efficiency, connect a siloed system, and improve the quality of care.

When clinicians and consumers have ready, secure access to both individual consumer information and population-level data, the healthcare system will work better for consumers and their care providers by reducing administrative delays, lowering costs, and delivering more actionable insights. Most importantly, the ability to access richer health data and develop predictive insights improves the overall quality of care for consumers.

Many of the tools to facilitate coordinated care already exist, but on siloed and separate systems. Now they need to be aligned so that they work in collaboration and seamlessly integrate into existing workflows, improving outcomes as well as care and service delivery.

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