Published 27. Mar. 2017

Digital Revolution in Health and Social Care, Just a Matter of Time

For Paavo Perttula, Digital Health Lead at Accenture, the health and social care sectors are ripe for digital revolution -- well, almost.
Healthcare

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“Being consultants, digitalization is at the core of what we do,” states Accenture’s Paavo Perttula, “We are our clients’ innovation partner and trusted advisor in matters particularly related to digitalization.”

Consumers or end-users or patients everywhere seem ready and willing to adopt new digital services, and organizations are beginning to see the value in doing things differently, “In terms of ROI in Healthcare, the biggest opportunities are in population health and preventive care. This has been said so many times that it starts to wear out, but there’s hardly anything happening in this space, although we are talking about relatively simple and cost-effective means to tackle population health and related fiscal sustainability problems.” The laws for secondary use of patient- and social care data are being renewed and it looks like we will have a very progressive legislation sometimes next year. For example, risk stratification based on these integrated data sets, and new innovative care pathways designed to tackle the root-cause (health or social!) are expected to surface.

Obstacles and Clearances

What’s stopping the health and social care sectors from full digitalization? Perttula believes the biggest show-stopper is typically the organization’s readiness to accept risk, “To overcome this, digitalization should be on the CEO’s or board’s agenda. Leaders navigate uncharted waters. This means dealing with uncertainty and tolerating risk. The most important thing, therefore, is to start doing things, and the right time to start the journey is now. The actual implementation of digitalization strategies may include building things on your own, partnering with other ecosystem players or through M&A.” As a reminder, Perttula adds, “All leading organizations have a clear vision and flexibility to advance the strategy by all of the above.” Recent thinking and evidence underlines the break-neck pace of innovation and its impact on winning strategies. The bottom line is that market dynamics have forever changed. In many cases, a fast follower strategy just doesn’t work anymore.

Aside from attitudes, other obstacles include a combination of, “Legislation and genuine concerns over data privacy and ethical conduct. Naturally, the impending SOTE reform is a factor. Currently, many innovations are ‘waiting’ for the reform to happen.”

Going Forward

The Digital Health Lead identified two tech trends to watch out for:

Proper structured and integrated data sets – These are a combination of data from various clinical sources and social sector. They will be utilized in public health and (clinical) decision support.
Genome analytics – It’s an enabler of an earlier and more accurate risk stratification, precision medicine, and deeply personalized care pathways for chronically ill populations.

Other big changes include:

The clinical doctor’s role – “One way to look at it is through data ownership and analytics capabilities. There will be a large number of digital services available for diagnostics and insights-driven prevention/wellbeing that are directly targeted to the consumer/patient. One might argue that this means breaking down the existing paternalistic white-coat model, and that doctors will become more like a trusted advisor.”

Obviously, one of the key issues in healthcare is the ever increasing cost. Analytics and new digital tools are primarily designed to optimize care quality and health outcomes, but provide little answers to affordability: the better diagnostics tools you create, the more conditions you have to treat. Preventing chronic disease is obviously a great long run investment, but to control the costs today one needs to look for digital solutions that substitute human labor or enable asynchronous care (much like what has happened in radiology)

From patient preference – and also access to care point-of-view – telehealth holds a great promise to diagnose conditions and administer care everywhere. “Telehealth should primarily be understood as a better, and not just a cheaper, way to deliver care. Who really wants to go to the clinic?”

New roles in health- and social care – “Completely new skills and profiles, like that of a data scientist, have emerged.” Before planning the new operating model and organization one needs to understand digitalization, and its impact on the organization, given the specific context of operations. “To map the talent needs for your organization, it’s a good idea to start by drafting a strategy map or business model canvas for your organization. A SOTE provider with population responsibility has quite different analytics needs compared to a trauma center.”


Accenture will be attending IndustryForum Healthcare in Finland on the 26th of September 2017 as a solution provider. Event discussions include:

  • Artificial Intelligence revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
  • Customer’s freedom of choice – how to guarantee the continuity of treatment?
  • Reformation of counties – structure and funding.
For all our upcoming events, visit the Event Calendar »