8 digital trends to expect in healthcare in 2018

Healthcare companies are looking to digitize their operations

by Shauna Leighton, Business2Community

According to a recent survey conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics, 70 percent of healthcare companies are looking to digitize their operations in order to facilitate growth.

With personalized medicine and value-based care on the rise, the healthcare industry is finally recognizing the importance of a digital transformation, yet only two percent have completed a digital transformation across their organization.

To better prepare you for what’s to come, here are eight trends you can expect to see in 2018:

Big data

It may be the latest buzzword for healthcare, but big data won’t be going away anytime soon.

IDC forecasts the big data industry to reach $102 billion by 2019. Many healthcare organizations utilize data to provide tools for clinical support, reimbursement models, and at-risk patient population management. The problem is, this data is often siloed amongst business units and technology systems.

Big data will inevitably allow for healthcare providers to deliver much more precise and personalized care by fueling the industry with predictive analytics and machine learning. By unlocking these insights, healthcare organizations can understand the overall picture of an individual’s health, let alone population health in general. And if data can do that, imagine what it can provide to measure the health of an organization and its customers.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) can be tricky – there seems to be many definitions floating around. In my opinion, this Forbes article describes it best: “IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).”

Simple, right? Well, not so fast.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected devices. This will foster a giant network of connected “things,” including the connection between people using said devices.

While this opens the door for many growth opportunities and enhanced engagement, it also poses a security risk. Even in its infancy, IoT is making headlines within all industries and isn’t expected to slow down in the coming year.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

When Artificial Intelligence (AI) is brought up in conversation, especially when tied to Machine Learning (ML), some people go straight to thinking a robot apocalypse is going to happen and we’re all doomed. But let’s take a (realistic) step back for a second.

AI is essentially the backbone to big data. Without it, keeping track of that amount of data will be extremely difficult. Not only that, but AI will be able to deliver better patient care by designing customized treatment plans, creating more sophisticated medication management tools, focusing on genetics and genomics for personalized care, and speeding up drug development.

In relation to Marketing and Sales, when it comes to ensuring that sales reps are prepared for every interaction and are given the tools they need to succeed in them, the combination of man and machine will result in greater gains for the sales reps, for each marketer that supports them, and for the organization as a whole.

Customer experience

Customer experience is the very fabric of the healthcare industry.

Personalized medicine, a focus on engagement, and the need to improve outcomes are on the rise. Adding to that, patients are now in the driver’s seat relative to their own healthcare. They have more choices when it comes to accessing providers (that is, if they don’t self-diagnose themselves), and they have information at their fingertips when they want to research a drug, device, or organization. Patients have more influence in buying decisions than ever before and organizations need to keep up.

Sixty-one percent of healthcare organizations are expecting to see an increase in customer satisfaction because of digital transformation. This is why it’s important to understand that the future of digital transformation is as much technological as it is a focus on customers and people. Master both and you’ll capture the hearts and minds within any market you approach. Ignore them and you’ll be etched in history.

Operational efficiency

With investments being made in the simplification and connection of systems delivering data, operational efficiency is inevitable, right? Wrong. Without proper planning and execution, or the appropriate teams and infrastructure to support such efficiency, healthcare organizations are bound to fail.

Think of operational efficiency the same way you think about value-based care. Instead of fee-for-service, we’re now transitioning to a pay-for-performance model that’s based on outcomes and the value provided.

If 48 percent of organizations say that immature technologies are holding them back from achieving their goals, which are largely centered on increasing consumer engagement and the value of their services, then how can they deliver on said value and improve efficiency outcomes? They can’t. This is why healthcare organizations need to develop a core infrastructure that’s more effective and efficient, while quickly incorporating innovations and new technologies to stay ahead of the competition in 2018 and beyond.

Mobile

Mobile – need I say more?

Mobile technology is changing the landscape of healthcare delivery around the world, but especially in the United States. Telehealth and telemedicine really came to fruition in 2016 and will continue to make an impact in 2018. Patients will become so accustomed to having video consults with a provider, utilizing mobile health applications, and using their smartphones as a diagnostic tool.

Not only should mobile health (mHealth) be utilized to communicate with patients, but with buyer groups as well. Eighty percent of physicians use smartphones and medical apps. As they become more comfortable with using such technology, and with millennials entering the provider workforce, healthcare organizations will need to incorporate mobile strategies as part of a digital transformation.

Content marketing

Maybe I’m a bit biased since I write for a living, but content marketing is here to stay and there’s no escaping it. However, 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, with much of the buying process complete before contact with an organization is even made.

Buyers also consume an average of 14 pieces of content before making a buying decision. Therefore, it’s imperative that you become a part of the conversation ahead of time and create personalized experiences for your buyers.

When I say content, I don’t just mean white papers and case studies. This could be social media, online patient communities, videos, etc. Healthcare organizations need to develop and offer more relevant content to their patients and consumers to educate them on disease states or drug/device, enhance the level of engagement, and improve outcomes. It goes back to the importance of customer experience and content plays a crucial role.

Marketing technology stacks

CRM, Marketing Automation, and Sales Enablement – oh my!

For the healthcare industry, sales cycles can be long and they need a specific set of technologies that will give long-term insights throughout the buyer journey. Buyers often have several touch points – whether that be sales meetings, events, or digital campaigns – and organizations need platforms that, together, stack up to let Marketing and Sales do inbound and outbound marketing, sales enablement, and eventually, to understand attribution.

This is why sales and marketing enablement is a crucial component of Marketing and Sales’ trifecta of tools, and is often considered the final frontier of Marketing and Sales alignment. But by allowing integrations with other platforms, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs), and Email Systems, organizations can coordinate efforts to paint a more holistic, data-backed picture of their customers’ activity.

With digital technology on the rise to sophistication and global acceptance, the scope for different businesses and brands to engage and interact with their customers is boundless. 2018 is going to be one for the books. Therefore, it is ‘now’ when companies should start incorporating these trends in their strategic planning process for 2018. You may be ahead of the actual execution phase, but getting well-prepared beforehand will give you a competitive edge.

This article was written by Shauna Leighton from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Visit the AT&T Healthcare Solutions page for reports, videos and other resources to learn more about the emerging technology that's helping businesses transform.

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