The COVID‑19 pandemic has spurred a dramatic digital revolution in the healthcare sector in the way patients interact with doctors and other service providers. Pre-pandemic, the sector’s service model was arguably the least changed by the technology revolution, as in-person interactions were the rule. But the need for social distancing, as well as coordination in COVID‑19 response has forced the industry to make radical changes to this model, to everything from digitizing and sharing health records, to remote patient analysis, diagnosis and treatment delivery. McKinsey estimates that revenues from digital health will increase to $600b in 2024 from $350b in 2019 as this revolution takes hold.
A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association of 16m people found use of telemedicine increased 30x in the 1H20, and a French firm conducting video consultations in Europe has seen numbers increase from 1,000 to 100,000 per day.
The possible benefits of digital transformation to the healthcare sector and patients are enormous. For example, remote diagnosis and monitoring will save travel and waiting time for patients as well as facilities costs for providers. Digital record keeping will increase productivity and give authorities better information on larger trends, and new digital services will open new revenue streams. Indeed, as the healthcare sector has arguably been slower to embrace digital transformation than any other sector, it is possible that the combined increased revenue and reduced cost potential from this transformation is greater for it than for any other industrial sector.
But in addition to the benefits, the sector will face many challenges protecting its increased digitization. In countries such as the US with fragmented systems, the large number and wide variety of systems and protocols likely to be introduced will greatly increase the number of attack surfaces that need to be protected and systems that need to be properly managed. And the speed of change will place a premium on both secure systems architecture, and employee training on the new digital systems, even more than in other industries that have a longer history of digital transformation. Indeed, as the healthcare sector is already one of the worst rated by Cyberhedge in cyber governance, and is already struggling with a large number of ransomware attacks, the challenges companies and stakeholders will have securing its new digital future are immense.
But companies that execute well on digital transformation should be able to provide quality care and outperform lesser performing peers over time.