The latest report by Deloitte “Digital transformation: Shaping the future of European healthcare” explores the potential for digital transformation to address the current and future challenges facing healthcare systems in Europe.
Deloitte UK Centre for Health Solutions launched a survey of 1,800 clinicians to assess the use of digital technologies across seven European countries. It aimed to understand the views of frontline clinicians working across primary and secondary care about the challenges they face and the benefits they see from technology adoption.
When asked about the current state of digitalisation in their country, the most frequently mentioned negative words were “Slow, Complex and Bureaucratic”. The three most frequently mentioned positive words were “Fast, Innovative and Efficient”.
Overall, those surveyed were hopeful about the future. The majority of European clinicians feel that it will take less than five years from now to achieve a fully digital healthcare system. Their expectations are also largely positive. The top three words they hope to use to describe the system in five years from now are “Fast, Efficient, Simple”.
Challenges to digital transformation
The research shows that the gains from digital transformation adoption vary widely. To realise the benefits, infrastructure, cultural and operational changes are needed, including improvements in the education and training of clinicians. They also need to adapt to the fact that patients are becoming better informed and more demanding than in the past.
Responses to the survey identified the top three challenges organisations face in implementing digital technologies as bureaucracy in healthcare (57.4%), the cost of technologies (50.3%) and finding the right technologies (49.0%).
While the responses were broadly similar across the seven countries, the top three challenges included training staff to use technology among clinicians in Italy and Portugal and sharing patient data among those in the Netherlands. Furthermore, majority of clinicians across Europe said that their organisation is ‘very well’ or ‘reasonably well prepared’ to adopt digital technologies, with Denmark was most prepared and Germany the least.
Key actions to close the gap
Deloitte’s experts identified two overarching themes and five actions needed to help deliver digital transformation at scale now and in the future:
- Infrastructure: create a robust health IT infrastructure that includes connectivity (Wi-Fi, fibre optic, broadband etc.), 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, cybersecurity, patient consent and patient education.
- Leadership: develop digital leadership skills and improve the digital literacy of staff and patients.
Shaping the future of healthcare
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of healthcare by at least a decade. Indeed, the legacy of the pandemic is likely to be new relationship paradigms based on collaboration, “good will” and heightened levels of trust. Attitudes to care have changed and boundaries that have been in place for a long time have been removed, creating the opportunity for new health care behaviours. Moreover, in catalysing digital transformation and the adoption of technologies at scale, key stakeholders will increasingly collaborate to realise a future for healthcare that is truly predictive, preventive, personalised and participatory.
Just as experience in other industries has driven consumer demand for digital on-demand accessible, personalised services, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven European citizens’ expectations for care anywhere, anytime and an acceptance that care can now take place outside traditional healthcare settings.