The pandemic has spawned a new digital healthcare ecosystem
It happened almost overnight—COVID-19 fractured global healthcare networks—driving rapid digital transformation and ultimately transforming how patients and providers connect.
Before the start of the pandemic in 2019, only 5% of American patient consumers had ever used a telemedicine solution or enrolled with a digital health app. In just a few months, new services such as telemedicine platforms, digital patient portals, and remote patient monitoring tools became the new normal, changing the healthcare industry forever. Digital health ecosystems expanded rapidly to meet the pandemic’s emergency demands.
As healthcare organizations grow their technology stacks, transform clinical workflows, and release game-changing digital products for their teams, patients, and community stakeholders, the digital health ecosystem is gaining traction.
In this article, learn more about what a digital health ecosystem is, why healthcare organizations are adopting digital services, and how these new solutions transform care to deliver a better patient experience.
What is a digital health ecosystem?
A digital health ecosystem is a constellation of different applications, web portals, and digital technologies responsible for delivering remote medical services, communicating with patients, sharing data, and providing access to information about community health resources.
The creation of healthcare platforms on the internet, interoperability between health systems, and secure sharing of EHRs have laid the foundation for a new healthcare infrastructure. This digital infrastructure has shifted the focus from organization-centered health services to patient-centered services, which are at once multi-disciplinary and collaborative.
Telehealth has played a tremendous role in changing the physician-patient dynamics and given a fillip to the development of custom healthcare mobile apps.
Before 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, telehealth adoption was a tiny fraction of the care landscape, with only 4.7% of the American population having ever interacted with their medical professional using a telehealth solution.
In just a few years, the widespread disruption caused by telehealth is palpable, and patient-consumers have made their expectations very clear: the “Amazon Effect” is in no way limited to e-commerce.
Today’s patients demand smooth and seamless digital healthcare experiences that match what they get through online retail, lifestyle, and social media platforms. Healthcare is finally becoming more competitive and starting to treat its patients as customers. Community health practices have rolled out various mobile and web applications to link physicians, patients, and payers. New features such as chatbots and automation allow patients to receive the guidance and support they need.
Innovative healthcare software solution providers have begun to deliver digital health tools that are convenient, user-friendly, and intuitive for a wide range of users to enjoy.
Digital healthcare ecosystems are changing the way patients and physicians interact together. Both physicians and patients love the convenience that digital health tools offer. As digital health tools expand, immense opportunities are available to improve clinical efficiencies, reduce the cost of care, and deliver better patient experiences.
A myriad of tools and apps have surfaced for patient care, boosting the digital healthcare ecosystem
The adoption of digital health tools in healthcare
In 2019, only 5% of the general public had ever used a telemedicine platform, but by 2022, more than 80% of Americans conducted remote care consultations with providers.
Every day, more patients use digital health applications to manage their families’ care. Meanwhile, evidence-based research continues to highlight the immense benefit digital services provide physicians as well.
In recent years, digital health adoption among physicians has increased dramatically across all genders, age groups, and medical practice specialties—the average number of digital health tools a physician uses grew from 2.2 in 2016 to 3.8 in 2022.
Physicians appreciate custom-designed patient portals that deliver the functionality and ease of use they need to enhance their service delivery.
According to American Medical Association (AMA) research findings, as of 2022, 93% of physicians claim to see some (49%) or a definitive (44%) advantage in the digital health tools they are using.
When asked what specific benefits digital health tools are offering their practice, most physicians highlighted “improved clinical outcomes” and “improved work efficiency” as top motivators, with 88% of doctors listing these two as very/somewhat necessary to their decision to continue using digital health resources with their patients.
Completing strategic investments in digital health applications
Delivering a world-class experience needs to be an operating principle for healthcare organizations. To fuel disruptive innovation and build organizational resilience, it’s essential to complete strategic investments in digital health applications.
According to seed fund Rock Health, 2021 was the biggest year for digital health investment, bolstered by never-before-seen infrastructure tools and business model options. Venture capitalists poured $29.1 billion across 729 deals, with an average deal size of $39.9 million, into digital healthcare startups. Overall investment nearly doubled 2020’s $14.9 billion. But halfway through 2023, the industry has seen only $6.1 billion invested across 244 digital health companies. To deliver highly customized, user-friendly, and intuitive digital experiences that make patient-physician interactions meaningful, investments should continue.
To continue to attract investments, healthcare companies need to focus on cutting-edge technologies like AI, robotic surgeries, genomic editing, and 3D printing. At present, generative AI is attracting investor interest, and healthcare organizations should exploit it fully. Most modern businesses need to work aggressively to dazzle and delight their customers. Why should healthcare be any different?
Benefits of using digital health applications for patients and providers
Digital health products connect patient-consumers to medical care teams and clinical service providers.
Here are the top benefits of building custom digital health tools to enhance the patient experience:
Deliver person-centered care: Digital health apps allow patients to take control of their healthcare services, personal health information, and connection to the community health system on their terms. Increased access, flexibility, and the opportunity to enjoy 24/7 connection are significant benefits consumers don’t want to give up in the post-pandemic era.
Access to more robust preventative medicine: As data-driven health technologies continue to be adopted by patients, their health improves because of the quicker feedback loop connecting them to the best medical insights. Digital tools improve patient medical outcomes, reducing the need for more costly emergency interventions.
Provide cutting-edge healthcare services: Telehealth services, smart home, remote patient monitoring tools, and wearable health monitoring solutions are just a few of the medical device and software tech innovations driving more efficient patient services. Access to cutting-edge medical innovation breaks down barriers to care and ensures that even rural and underserved communities flourish.
Here are the top benefits of building a digital health ecosystem to improve the experience of physicians, hospital admin teams, and other healthcare staff:
Improved operational efficiency: Automation, machine learning, and medical workflow optimization benefit every hospital clinical team and business unit. As services become more efficient, care teams have less manual busy work and more time to deliver world-class care to their patients.
Better clinical workflows: Digital health tools empower healthcare teams to embrace hybrid remote work models that reduce staff stress, overwork, and burnout. Custom healthcare software enhances the work environment and day-to-day experience of medical professionals.
Build in-demand healthcare expertise: Empower healthcare teams with the most advanced custom technologies to harness the skill sets and tools of tomorrow. Physicians with high degrees of digital literacy and an interest in technology will be better compensated in the years ahead.
It doesn’t matter where your organization is in your digital transformation journey—our team can help. We are an agile distributed healthcare technology service provider that delivers custom software solutions, augmented teams, and digital software product development services.