Digital transformation: shaping the future of healthcare


Digital technologies are crucial enablers for bridging the gap between demand for healthcare and the capacity of healthcare services to meet demand. Leveraging the opportunities and efficiencies offered by digital transformation is key for any organisation to remain viable and fit for the future, but for Europe’s healthcare services, which are made up of multiple services and organisations, across a range of geographies and jurisdictions, the challenges and solutions are complex.

Healthcare systems across Europe are facing unprecedented pressure. While the quantity and quality of care has improved, the scale and complexity of healthcare needs have grown, together with public expectations of more personalised and convenient services.

At the same time, healthcare staff and resources have become increasingly constrained and the gap between supply and demand has grown. Most countries are looking to digital transformation to close this gap but progress has been slow and the digital maturity of providers, both within and between countries, varies widely.


Blue and White Step by Step Process Chart Presentation

Key actions to close the gap

  • Infrastructure: create a robust health IT infrastructure that includes connectivity, safe data storage and consented access to health data and data sharing.
  • Open EHRs: implement accessible and integrated EHR systems and invest in the basic digital technologies that accelerate digitalisation.
  • Interoperability: address the challenge of interoperability through development of shared local or national records with a single patient identifier and transparent consent processes, and embrace secure, cloud technology, placing critical IT infrastructure in virtual off-site data centres underpinned by agreed interoperability standards.
  • Governance: establish a robust governance framework to support change management and a culture of digital transformation, including clarity over data ownership, cyber security, patient consent and patient education.
  • Leadership: develop digital leadership skills and improve the digital literacy of staff and patients.

 Improving citizen’s experience of digital health

Increasing numbers of citizens across Europe are no longer prepared to be passive recipients of care: instead, they expect to have choices based on trusted advice and reliable information. They also wish to own their healthcare data and decide who to share it with, and for what purposes.

While use of digital technology to measure fitness and health improvement goals, receive medication alerts and book medical appointments is increasing in most European countries, some challenges remain.

Adoption of fitness trackers and smart watches is biased towards affluent millennials and those with a higher socio-economic status. This ‘digital divide’ tends to disadvantage the same groups of people who are already at risk of social and health inequalities. Figures show that 80 million Europeans never use the internet either because they don’t have a computer or due to the cost. Around 29 per cent of Europeans lack basic digital skills, rising to 70 per cent of retired adults. Access to fast and reliable broadband, especially in rural areas, is also an issue.

Addressing health inequalities by improving people’s digital health literacy and access is crucial in ensuring that digital transformation fulfils its transformative potential.

The need for digital transformation

  1.  Chronic diseases are on the rise
  2. Patients expect more convenient and personalised care experiences

With the world increasingly at their fingertips, patient expectations of healthcare are also shifting. Patients are taking an increasingly proactive role in their health and well-being, expecting more convenient and personalized care experiences

  1. Healthcare providers face growing staff shortages

As demand for care continues to increase, healthcare providers are facing increasing staff shortages in many parts of the world. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2035 there will be a global deficit of 12.9 million skilled healthcare professionals. Physicians and staff are already paying a heavy toll. A 2021 Medscape survey revealed that 42% of them report feeling burnout, with the COVID-19 pandemic adding to the strain for many. Protecting the mental and physical well-being of healthcare professionals has become more important than ever, calling for digital solutions can help automate routine tasks and simplify workflows. At the same time, healthcare providers are seeking ways to extend the reach of specialist care to communities where experienced staff is in short supply

  1. Healthcare providers seek efficiencies to reduce waste and costs

Adding to the challenge for healthcare systems is that costs keep rising while reimbursement is under pressure. Between 2020 and 2024, global health spending is expected to rise at a 3.9% annual rate, considerably faster than the 2.8% recorded in 2015-2099. Yet more money spent does not necessarily translate into better outcomes. In the US, it has been estimated that approximately 25% of total healthcare expenditure is wasted, with administrative complexity being the main source of waste. Improving operational efficiencies and reducing waste is a key priority for healthcare leaders – and they need data driven insights to figure out where the biggest gains are to be made.

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