Digital ecosystems are the future of healthcare

from Corinne Dive-Reclus and Dr. Tim M. Jaeger

Almost everything we do these days is digital. The obvious exception is healthcare.

In a world with more than 5 billion internet users, with 67% of us now using mobile devices, patients are suffering from the slow adoption of digital health technologies. And healthcare providers can see the potential of data-driven insights to improve the way they deliver care. Before the pandemic, although 81% of healthcare providers found it difficult to manage data across care settings, such as in the laboratory and in hospital and outpatient settings, 95% believed it was important to do so, according to Harvard Business Overview – Analytics Services Report.

With healthcare so central to our lives, why is it lagging behind in digital technology?

The challenge is related to the digital infrastructure. The data is there, but unless it’s connected, integrated, organized, and activated, health systems struggle to turn it into personalized, patient-centered health care and wellness. Labs and vendors must integrate data streams from disparate sources for meaningful insights.

But even after a slow start, digital transformation can happen quickly. Despite all the struggles the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to families, communities and health systems, it has catalyzed the adoption of digital health technologies.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed and reimagined the road map to tomorrow’s digitized healthcare space. The value of medical insights and rapid cross-border collaboration is now widely recognized.

Furthermore, it is clear that decisions supported by scientific evidence will play a major role in advancing personalized patient- or person-centered care. Open digital ecosystems—virtual networks of healthcare innovators and technology providers that connect online and interact digitally—are key to creating access to these breakthroughs and creating value for everyone, especially patients.

Wanted: Holistic thinking

It begins with a clear focus on using digital innovation to integrate health science data. But it is not enough to connect siled health data between disparate healthcare devices, laboratory instruments and hospital systems. The real challenge facing healthcare providers and payers everywhere is turning disjointed data into medically actionable insights in the context of competing priorities and limited resources.

Successful transformations begin with holistic thinking that includes a diverse network of innovative collaborators and a clear purpose focused on patient needs. At the heart of any digital ecosystem is a platform: robust, open digital infrastructures and services that enable a whole network of different players to share data more easily and securely.

This means not only connecting laboratories, hospitals and diverse healthcare facilities, but also enabling interactions with other healthcare groups and third-party innovators. For this relationship to work, specialized teams must continuously collaborate with healthcare players and technology companies worldwide by digitizing infrastructures using both on-premises and cloud-based technologies.

We must approach this challenge from the context of health science and always with a view to supporting the entire patient journey, raising the standard of healthcare delivery and shifting the focus of care from a focus on disease to a focus on patient needs.

Importing innovation from everywhere

Once a robust, modern digital infrastructure is in place, an open ecosystem will enable healthcare providers to leverage external innovation for operational excellence and medical insights.

Healthcare providers can use “safe portals” or virtual marketplaces to explore digital innovations from a range of local and global innovators. They can decide which digital settings and data needs, such as supporting workflow solutions or disease management solutions, are best suited for their communities and healthcare settings.

Good ideas can be found anywhere. It is therefore vital to connect with a partner that takes an open approach to sharing innovative, science-based solutions and identifying other players in the global network.

Approaches based on digital evidence

Digital solutions are constantly evolving. The proliferation of tools and players in the digital health space makes this field exciting and full of potential. Yet reliable digital healthcare solutions require a scientific, evidence-based approach combined with compliance with health, cybersecurity and data privacy regulations.

To deliver proven value to the broader healthcare community, a digital solution requires close and early collaboration between healthcare provider leaders around the world – what we call a “health science approach”. As we work to create these open digital ecosystems, we can also nimbly sense and respond to changes in what healthcare professionals and patients need – and demonstrate with robust evidence that solutions provide real (clinical) utility, benefiting healthcare systems and impacting patient care.

Navigating the digital world

Hospital and healthcare leaders need integrated, secure solutions that add medical insights and value to their healthcare operations to improve efficiency, save time or money, and help improve patient care. Digital health solutions help connect data silos for better insights, drive operational excellence for labs and hospitals, and enable clinicians to make more confident care decisions.

Health systems have waited too long to unlock the full potential of digital health. Patients no longer have to wait. Digital ecosystems are the future of healthcare, enabling healthcare leaders to digitize care settings and advance patient-centered care.

Corinne Dive-Reclus is Head of Lab Insights and Dr. Tim M. Jaeger is Head of Provider Insights at Roche Information Solutions.

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