In earlier blog entries we have discussed specific avatars of Information Technology (IT) in the healthcare industry and touched upon how IT has been a driver of several megatrends. An interesting McKinsey publication from July 2014  summarizing insights from a recent international survey highlights several key aspects of the healthcare industry wherein IT adoption has made a positive impact. The effect of IT has been reported to have occurred in a cascade of ‘waves’, occurring in chronological order, impacting:
- Automation of standardized and repetitive tasks (eg: accounting and payroll).
- Advocacy for the promotion and rapid adoption of health-IT through effective policy changes (eg: the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in the United States, amongst other policies worldwide) which were made seemingly keeping in mind the goal of assuaging the world’s privacy concerns by advocating a system riddled with a myriad of regulations.
- Full digitization of the healthcare enterprise, including but not limited to electronic health records and digitization of medical imaging for radiology practices – the subject of my earlier blog entries relating to RIS and PACS – which has holistically brought patient-care and patient-needs to the forefront of the care delivery mission.
In retrospect, granted our world is being revolutionized by technology driving healthcare digitization and advocating securely accessible data, how well have healthcare organizations been reading the signs in regard to patient-needs en-route to the goal of digital patient-enablement..? The McKinsey Digital Patient Survey conducted in 2014, in Germany, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with a sample size greater than 1,000, reveals some surprising insights…
- 75% of people ‘want to use’ digital services for healthcare! Healthcare policy decision makers often cite data that point to relatively low usage of digital healthcare services and blame this on patient sensitivity to data privacy. Survey results indicate quite the contrary; in fact, patients don’t need to be convinced about privacy issues but instead care about the quality of the digital services and demand that existing services meet their ‘needs’.
- Over 70% of older patients (i.e. over 50 years old) want digital healthcare services nearly as much as their younger counterparts! The difference between the two groups lies in the fact that younger patients are more keen on health promotion and prevention services, the older population seeks information about services for acute and chronic conditions.
- The demand for ‘mobile’ healthcare is not universal! While the demand for mobile healthcare applications is strongest primarily amoung younger people, both young and old patients care for fast availability of a personal contact person and the ability to access services via an online platform. So, at the global level, given that 60% of a lifetime’s healthcare costs occur after the age of 65, the fact that the human population is aging rapidly and more people are living longer with average annual growth rates of persons aged 80 years or over being approximately twice as high as the growth rate of the population over 60 years of age (recall that by 2025 over 18% of the US population will be over 65 years old!) , are mobile apps really critical to the future of healthcare digitization..? Perhaps not… Here is an interesting article to supplement this thought: http://vincedasta.com/p/save-your-money-dont-build-an-app/
- Focused digital services that work ‘fast’ are preferred over dinosaurs that offer comprehensive platforms which encompass a wide spectrum of customer services that are often too complex to navigate and conduct routine tasks. Amongst routine tasks, “finding and scheduling physician appointments” and “repetitive administrative tasks” (eg: prescription refills) have been identified as services with which most people require assistance.
Riding the trends for the third wave of healthcare IT adoption, healthcare companies should follow the models of champions of the digital-service era like Google  and Facebook – start ‘small’ with a focused end-user offering and then continually add new services which both keep the customer’s (i.e. the patient) attention and build value, while ensuring the customer is comfortable interacting with the digital offering and requires little to no ‘patient enablement’ assistance to get acquainted with a new service.
 McKinsey International Survey on Healthcare’s Digital Future:
 Jeff Jarvis. What Would Google Do?, first edition, New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009.