The vast majority of healthcare executives––89%––are experimenting with emerging technologies such as AI, according to Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision report. The findings of the report offer insights into how health execs are thinking about new innovations––and where the biggest impacts will be.
For the report, Accenture asked 221 health executives about their beliefs on emerging technologies known as “DARQ”—distributed ledger, artificial intelligence (AI), extended reality (XR) and quantum computing.
More than two-thirds of execs said they believe DARQ will have a “transformational or extensive impact” on their healthcare organizations over the next three years. Out of the four technologies, AI was the clear winner in terms of which will have the biggest impact, with 44% citing it as their top pick.
The rapid rise of these technologies has also helped accelerate the pace of innovation for 94% of executives’ organizations over the past three years, according to the survey, which identified several trends about healthcare companies as they grow as digital businesses. The rise of DARQ power, as described by Accenture, is one of those trends.
Healthcare organizations are increasingly looking for ways to personalize care, with data being the key ingredient.
“When healthcare organizations gain the ability to create one-to-one relationships with individual healthcare consumers, they become each individual person’s ongoing, trusted healthcare partner,” the report reads.
Undoubtedly, there is a great opportunity for technologies to meet the needs of healthcare patients, and 87% of execs said they believe digital demographics give their organization a new way to identify market opportunities for these unmet needs, while 86% believe digital demographics, versus traditional demographics, are more powerful in understanding customers.
However, today there is a gap in how consumers think healthcare should be delivered and the way it actually is done. For one, people want privacy. Some technology interventions that are meant to prompt the best health options can actually seem intrusive. Healthcare organizations therefore have to walk the line of being “useful” and “creepy,” which can vary from person to person. This means that sometimes consumers will want their healthcare providers to use technology in their lives––and times when they don’t.
“Like other aspects of their daily lives, consumers increasingly expect technology to enable health organizations to meet them when, how and where they want care,” Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, senior managing director of Accenture’s health practice, said in a statement. "Despite considerable effort to-date, there remains a long journey ahead to deliver the rich, individualized, experience-based relationships that modern patients demand.
While the rise of DARQ technologies is fast-paced and described as inevitable by some as new innovations continually push themselves further, they aren’t able to replace the human element of healthcare. With these new technologies will come new jobs in healthcare organizations that are fully immersed in the sector. The post-digital age will require a new type of workforce that works alongside technology.
From the insurance side to care aspects, technology can complement the labor-intensive healthcare workforce.
“It’s not about technology doing the work, it’s about technology augmenting the work of people,” the report reads.
For now, workers aren’t likely to be overrun in their skillset by technology advancements, as 77% of executives said their employees are generally more digitally mature than their organization, with the workforce “waiting” for the organization to catch up. But the future is coming, with 68% agreeing that every employee in their organization will have access to a team of bots to accomplish their work within the next three years.
“But one thing is clear––it is no longer a matter of if these needs will be met, but when,” Safavi said. “Investing in DARQ technologies will be crucial to developing new pathways into the future.”
As the digital capabilities grow across the industry and individual organizations, data security will be more important than ever. Connecting the healthcare ecosystem of providers, payers, device makers and more will also up the risk in the name of improving care. And businesses should start to look at cybersecurity beyond their individual efforts as mandated collaborations get underway.
Sadly, 77% of executives said protecting their organizations in an ecosystem relies on security practices they can’t control. Joining up with other businesses in that ecosystem to bulk up security is essential to protect patients' sensitive health data.
Ecosystems can do this through a mock attack, such as creating certain issues or a breach that would test the preparedness level of the group and illustrate that real threats are out there. Creating real-time decision-based controls can also thwart ongoing efforts to breach a system, according to the report, in addition to creating security teams integrated with development and operations teams.