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Feb 24, 2020

Embracing healthcare’s digital transformation 2.0

Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes

When it comes to digital transformation in healthcare, it isn’t just about the technology – it’s about how digital technology integrates into clinical workflows and other aspects of the healthcare business, and how it drives value for patients, healthcare providers, payers and regulators.

How we humanize technology in a world of value-based care

Technology is only as useful as the value it helps us deliver. For us to get to the next phase of this evolution, technology must fit into a patient-centric care model. When I shifted my role from a full-time practicing physician to a healthcare administrator 20 years ago, there were no national standards on quality measurements, let alone for performance-based payment or value-based payment models.  


Today, value-based initiatives are shifting care delivery from compensating volume to compensating value and redefining financial incentives toward better patient outcomes. In this model, providers must think about the entire patient experience across all care settings and between episodic visits. On top of this, consumer behavior is changing the way patients choose and receive care. Patients are increasingly embracing convenient options for their healthcare that match their lifestyle, but still want the peace of mind that comes with support from a consistent primary care provider or care team.

The technologies that will define the future of healthcare will be those that strengthen the connection between patients and providers.

Huiling Zhang

Head of Medical Office, Connected Care, Philips

The technologies that will define the future of healthcare will be those that strengthen the connection between patients and providers. The rise of telehealth, for example, aligns with today’s more involved patient-consumer, as patient care is no longer restricted to the four walls of a hospital or primary care provider. Telehealth has brought us one step closer to patient-centered care, enabling healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients via a camera, sparing patients from the need to meet with them in person, and creating an option for patients to get care at their own convenience. 


The way patients approach their healthcare is changing and the way we communicate and record health events, both big and small, needs to evolve with it so we can truly engage patients in their own care.

Improve interoperability for more valuable communication

Sharing patient data among various care settings and information systems can help healthcare providers make more accurate and timely clinical decisions, improve clinical workflows, and reduce operational complexity. But to realize this potential, the data – and the actionable insights we can derive from them – need to be available in formats that can be shared effectively and securely within and between hospitals, ambulatory facilities, providers, or patients’ homes.


Imagine you are a patient in chronic condition with multiple comorbidities. Your care requires constant monitoring and oftentimes can involve being transferred between different hospitals, multiple departments of a hospital and doctors. In this scenario, every data point is vitally important, including remote monitoring data, patient history, compatible patient records, and more. Having the complete picture and longitudinal record of a patient is a necessity and requires truly interoperable systems.

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For us to move into a more meaningful phase of digital transformation, we need to evolve our existing infrastructure to support shifting care models. We need to embrace a future where information might be sourced from a patient’s cell phone, tablet, or wearable or where care teams can expect insights on a patient from a different care setting in real time. This can’t happen until systems are fully interoperable.

Revising the data-sharing framework

Ten years ago, the concept of data-sharing was far less complicated. With more involvement from tech giants, more wearables, and a greater desire by patients to be more active participants in their own healthcare journey, the conversation has drawn attention to the inadequacies of our current framework. 


While created with good intentions, the framework that is in place today to help protect and manage the use of patient data is outdated. Limited data sharing across the industry is stymying the transition to innovative payment models that reimburse providers for value, not volume. And as technology becomes more integrated into our care models and produces more data, data use will continue to be a challenge. More and more healthcare providers, for example, are automatically receiving sleep and fitness data from patients’ personal devices. Without the right framework in place, this data will be difficult to manage and will fail to live up to its potential to improve patient care. 


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) needs to evolve with the industry. It’s important that we have a system in place that keeps patients’ data safe, but also accounts for a more tech-savvy and patient-centric health ecosystem. In the future, much of the care we receive as patients will be based on the advanced technologies used by hospitals and the personal health data we share with our doctors. We need to be creative with how we use this data – revising parameters to ensure we can keep data safe, while accounting for patient data needs that live outside of the hospital’s four walls.

A decade of opportunity

Navigating healthcare’s digital transformation is a daunting task, but it’s one we can’t ignore. We’ve seen innovations begin to come to life within the four walls of hospitals and now need to tackle the areas keeping us from truly integrating them across every care setting that can impact today’s patient-consumer. 


To make the digital transformation a reality, we must do more than just talk about our vision, we need to set the stage for a decade of progress – making technology more meaningful and humanized in a world of value-based care.

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Huiling Zhang

Huiling Zhang

Head of Medical Office, Connected Care, Royal Philips

Huiling Zhang, MD, MPH, MBA, is a Physician executive with over 20 years of experience in healthcare management.

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