Technology is changing the way various industries operate. Healthcare is arguably the sector that could reap the most benefit from digital transformation, yet the widespread adoption of healthcare technology has been slow. Why?

The digital era

From online shopping to banking apps, technology has profoundly changed the way industries deliver services to consumers. In recent years in the healthcare sector, we’ve seen digitisation of health records, a rise in wearable health technologies and advancements in data analytics.1 The question is, why are these technologies not being routinely utilised in clinical practice?

Behind the curve

A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of healthcare providers view themselves as being ‘behind the curve’ in terms of their digital health initiatives. Many of these providers have little to no comprehensive data governance plans and are unable to securely share electronic health records (EHRs). The majority were also unable to successfully apply data to determine the best course of action within their organisation.2

Barriers to adoption

Some of the current barriers to widespread digital application include:2

  • Availability of digitally‑skilled staff
  • Physician resistance to adopting new solutions
  • Cybersecurity threats
  • The challenge of integrating old systems with new technologies
  • Cost/government funding

In healthcare, there is no economic reward or competitive pressure to offer consumer‑centric technologies. This means that few organisations invest in digital innovations.3

Usability is key

A key obstacle for healthcare systems is the interoperability of EHRs. There are concerns about security and data sharing, the growing standards, and the need to install application-programming interfaces that enable data exchange. To ensure widespread adoption, the technology must be safe, effective, evidence-based and compatible with clinical guidelines. Digital health tools must demonstrate clinical benefit to satisfy physicians and economic benefit to convince payers.4

Demonstrating value To encourage the use of healthcare technologies, metrics that show both their financial value and ability to improve clinical outcomes must be developed.3 Widening the evidence base to demonstrate safety, security, data privacy and effectiveness of digital health tools is critical to promoting their integration into healthcare systems.4