Are We There Yet? The Long (But Promising) Road Ahead for Digital Transformation of Healthcare

Updated on June 17, 2019
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By Colin Mellon

In nearly every industry in every corner of the world, digital transformation is reshaping how business is done and how the consumer experience is being dramatically improved. This digital evolution has reached the healthcare marketplace, but as of yet has not begun to fully deliver on the promise. In fact, according to a recent study, only seven percent of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have gone completely digital, compared to 15 percent of companies in other industries.

While much progress has been made, most transformation thus far has been the simple conversion of paper records to electronic ones. eReferral, ePrescribing and eHealth records are certainly an improvement, but they are just the initial steps when compared to the potential that lies ahead.

For example, healthcare payments are an area ripe for change. As a result of the current shift toward greater patient payment responsibility, there’s a growing demand that the healthcare industry deliver a payment and billing experience on par with other consumer experiences such as Uber, Amazon and Apple. This means clearly communicating costs and offering convenient settlement options, including credit card, online and mobile payments.

Industry research has revealed that 71 percent of patients found mobile pay options and billing alerts to have significantly improved their satisfaction with providers. While 89 percent of providers recognize the importance of enabling patients to make healthcare payments on mobile devices, only 20 percent are currently ready for payments other than checks, cash, or credit/debit cards. Much works still remains to be done in order to meet consumer demands.

Collections and back-office processing is another area that stands to benefit from innovative change. A report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows administrative costs in U.S. are the highest in the developed world, accounting for more than 8 percent of spending in the healthcare sector. Collections remain a tremendous administrative burden for providers, who must submit claims to primary payers, as well as follow up with secondary payers. This creates multiple sources of payment and remit information, further complicating an already complex payment process. This avalanche of paper makes it difficult to coordinate and to re-associate various payments back to claim data in order to close it out. The case for digital transformation is clear. Electronic solutions that eliminate time-intensive, error-prone, highly manual back-end processes and reconciliation practices offer tremendous opportunities to increase efficiency and lower costs for industry stakeholders. Integrated payment solutions are already available in the marketplace to help providers improve payment processes, better manage cash flow, and securely protect consumer financial data – all while ensuring a good patient experience.

And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to digital transformation. Emerging technologies in healthcare are expected to make a profound impact on the industry. Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled medical devices, quantum computing and block chain electronic health records are just a few examples of what is on the horizon. Intelligent digital services designed to streamline every aspect of the medical industry, improve patient outcomes, reduce human errors and lower costs will completely disrupt the marketplace for the better.

And no one will be happier about this transformation than patients themselves. A recent study by SAP and Oxford Economics found that 70 percent of healthcare companies are planning to digitalize operations, while another 61 percent are confident that digital transformation will increase patient satisfaction. That’s good news for everyone.

Colin Mellon is SVP Healthcare Solutions of First Data.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.