Healthcare's New Playbook


Digital health is a cultural transformation. How can we create immediate access to what is needed most in healthcare?

Robert Sundelius

4 min read

Digital health is a cultural transformation. The most radical challenges we face are rooted in a cultural transformation of traditional healthcare through disruptive technologies. To quote Dr. Bertalan Mesko’s recent publication on digital health, "With the rise of digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality/augmented reality, telemedicine, … the entire structure of healthcare, as well as the roles of patients and doctors, will fundamentally shift from the current status quo."

The future of healthcare is uncertain and shifting in significant ways. Deals now measure in the billions and are making headlines on a monthly basis. Non-healthcare global companies are stepping into the health industry sector, each seeking leverage, scale, and the ability to compete. The first half of 2018 brought us mergers, acquisitions, substantial venture capital investment, mind-bending technology, and a cadence of change bringing a whole new set of challenges. Moreover, we're just getting started.

All of this brings us to a threshold of sorts. A place of undiscovered possibilities: how can we create immediate access to what is needed most in healthcare for every person, wherever they are?

Historically, a patient's first stop was a trip to the local primary care physician. Then, if needed, referral to a specialist. If necessary, a final stop to what some have called "destination healthcare"; for example, Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic. Well-known national brands of clinical excellence in a distinct geographic location.

At some point in the future, this will change. It is wise to consider what happens to current roles and structures when healthcare consumers can access diagnostic and treatment protocols any time, from anywhere.

How we choose to see the world and what we believe about the future will influence the actions we take today. So much is uncertain, but if we're paying attention, many evolving patterns are becoming clear. 

Six strategic implications of upcoming radical shifts from the status quo:

These below proposed implications are offered to spark discussion among physicians, clinical teams, as well as senior leadership and governance members. It is valuable to explore each of these perspectives and to find meaningful, action-oriented responses to each topic.

  1. Recruiting and retaining clinicians to a specific location will diminish as a competitive advantage in healthcare. How fast, no one knows. However, change is picking up momentum. Thinking through the implications of this reality will be vital for future success.
  2. Access to virtual clinical platforms, offering a patient the most current and proven treatment methods, is central to future healthcare organizational success. Thinking through who will be the gatekeeper to these platforms, granting access, and service model implications will be vital.
  3. Supplemental offerings surrounding these platforms will become central to future competitive advantage. Integrating these pieces into a seamless offering will be a challenge. The role and identity of provider organizations will become increasingly a collection of entities with continually shifting players. Shared governance and co-branding will be critical.
  4. Provider roles will shift dramatically requiring repositioning and support. Clinical knowledge, which now doubles every 18 months, will become more accessible to individuals: directly, anytime, and anywhere. Leveraging artificial intelligence as an extension of provider expertise will be a necessity. It is vital to discuss change management and the enhanced role of providers in this scenario.
  5. Competition among clinical platforms will increase. Vetting and managing a portfolio of platforms will become a necessary competency of healthcare organizations. Building these competencies into your team will be critical.
  6. As patients access clinical platforms, healthcare organizations will need to significantly enhance digital engagement, consumer experience, and "co-creating" service pathways with patients. Provider organizations will need to shift from "place-based" and "knowledge holder" to "virtual" and "trusted navigation partner." Leading organizations will be those who become the most trusted partners in navigating clinical platforms that are always accessible.
  • Robert Sundelius