Digital future of healthcare


"The advancement of digitisation must benefit the patients. There must be quality outcomes, wellness enhancement and cost savings"

"The healthcare industry is shifting to a patient-centred model which harnesses technology to both open communication channels and creates a platform for patient engagement," Doris Savron, executive dean for the College of Health Professions, said in a statement.

Given this shift, it is crucial that patients not only have access to these technologies, but also view them as important resources for improving their health and overall care experience.

Why digital transformation should be a strategic priority in healthcare

The digital revolution is in its early days but it is expected to have a profound effect on healthcare delivery. By ‘digital health’ we mean all "disruptive technologies that democratise the access to data, information, devices and procedures in healthcare".

How digitisation can help healthcare funders and healthcare delivery

Digitisation will have a significant positive impact on healthcare funders’ economics, mainly through three levers:

  1. Stronger connectivity
    This will:
    • Enhance the consumer experience
    • Enable healthcare funders to engage more effectively with providers
    • Provide more sophisticated, digitally enabled tools to manage population health
    • Provide a clearer method for gauging the quality of care delivery
  2. Better decision-making
    Digitisation allows for:
    • Advanced analytics and big data insights
    • Implementation of value-based reimbursement. Through advanced analytics, it can be extended to population health which will have a direct effect on the economy.
  3. More advanced innovations
    New approaches to care delivery have the potential to bring down costs. These include:
    • Wearables that monitor the health status of patients with chronic conditions
    • Telemedicine
    • Virtual consultations that reduce the need for in-person physician consultations
    • Giving patients easy access to their medical history and helping them to locate nearby physicians, specialists and facilities

By combining these three levers, healthcare funders can achieve a significant impact on the way healthcare is delivered and managed.

Financial impact of digital transformation

  1. The average savings is predicted to be about 10% to 15%.
  2. Over a long term there will be a significant decrease in spending on medical services. Most of the savings will come from the substitution of more expensive services with lower-cost alternatives.
  3. Most of the primary care services are likely to rise – as would spending on those services. It is estimated that the increase in costs will be affected by the reduction of the use of more expensive services.
  4. Patients will be the primary beneficiaries of the lower spending, but some of the savings will accrue to the healthcare funders and providers.

Get buy-in from healthcare providers

To achieve this, it is also important to factor in the cost of digitalisation to the healthcare providers (including extra skills and responsibilities needed). It will not work if the providers are not reimbursed appropriately against the savings realised. This process must be transparent and all the stakeholders must be able to participate.

At present, digitalisation is financially more beneficial to healthcare funders whilst providers are not incentivised adequately to participate in this digital transformation.

The future of chronic healthcare

It is estimated that by 2025, in some programs the spend on chronic healthcare will be as much as 67% of the total healthcare spend. This will influence the way patients receive healthcare and the manner in which providers are reimbursed.

The digital revolution will help to manage chronic care as it will:

  • Allow for early diagnosis
  • Avoid increase in co-morbidities
  • Decrease hospitalisation
  • Promote healthier populations
  • Manage the rising healthcare costs

Many healthcare programs are setting a target of total digitisation by 2020.

We need to embrace this process and switch to a digitalised healthcare platform. There will be different channels available to stakeholders – depending on how competent they are. But the change has to start now. Healthcare must embrace the digital revolution to stay relevant. Providers must embrace this change as the evidence is clear that competent digitalisation is the destination for the future of global healthcare.

These global trends are not currently reflected in our local curricula with our high burden of disease. The overarching goal of the project was to encourage decision-makers to incorporate palliative care, not only into their daily practice, but also as an essential element of the oncology training curriculum.

But, we must not lose sight of the people behind the technology and their needs – the people and communities for whom it will be put to work.


  1. McKinsey and company: Healthcare digital future; Steven Biesdorf and Florian Niederman; July 2014
  2. McKinsey and company: Why digital transformation should be a strategic priority for health insurers; Basel Kayyali, Steve Kelley and Madhu Pawar
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