Technology is healthcare's biggest driver of change but executives fear impact on R&D

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European healthcare executives (51 per cent) predict that over the next three years technology platforms will have the biggest impact on their business models, however they are wary that in driving rapid change the biggest areas at risk are 1) technology itself and crucially 2) R&D. The majority (71 per cent) believe their organisations need to change faster over the next three years if they are to be ready for the future and 78 per cent are feeling the pressure to change.  The findings come from a new study called The Challenge of Speed, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Ricoh. Healthcare respondents were from hospitals, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceuticals.

Carsten Bruhn, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Europe says, "Healthcare leaders know there is a lot to do and they need to change faster  – the European Commission's eHealth Action Plan also covers many areas for change, from patient rights in cross-border healthcare to funding advanced R&D to ensuring that electronic health record systems are compatible internationally. But what do they start to change first, ensuring their R&D is protected?"

The study reveals that healthcare executives are fragmented. When asked where adapting to change was most crucial, they rated improving core business processes (34 per cent), recruiting new staff (34 per cent), attracting and retaining customers (34 per cent), optimising their supply chain (34 per cent) and adopting new technologies (32 per cent) with equal importance.

However, when specifically considering where they expect to see the most change in the next three years, the most cited response from healthcare executives was 'improving their core business processes'.  What's more, almost half rate data analytics as the technology with the most potential to improve healthcare over the next three years, much higher than any other industry (42 per cent versus average 29 per cent for respondents from all sectors).

Bruhn says, "Improving healthcare's core business processes is without doubt the key starting point. It is also certain that data analytics will play a key role in preventative healthcare measures and direct future R&D. Healthcare leaders also need to focus on the digital transformation of document-heavy patient record systems. By doing so, they will have quicker access to information when they need it, while protecting confidentiality needs and dedicating more time to patient care."

In the race to modernise more traditional ways of working and to realise the vision of the eHealth Action Plan, healthcare leaders also emphasise two significant barriers that are preventing them from making it happen more quickly. The first is the lack of a clear business case and the second is due to time constraints on healthcare professionals. In addition to the barriers to speed, the survey reveals additional bottlenecks to increasing overall agility. The challenge of effectively linking technology platforms is ranked first and the presence of multiple and potentially conflicting initiatives is ranked in second place.

The healthcare industry is confronted with an overwhelming challenge when it comes to speeding up the progress of digital transformation.  However, as this latest study shows, while technology platforms will have the biggest impact on business models, healthcare leaders are clear that's not where the obstacles and bottlenecks lie.

Bruhn says, "The healthcare sector is not being held back due to a lack of investment in the right technology.  Instead, as this study shows, it's the processes behind the technology and the need for the right business case to optimise them. With the right support they can review existing processes and design an improvement plan. This will allow the IT systems already in place to be to integrated more effectively and time consuming administrative processes to be significantly reduced. Then with this renewed focus and the time saved, healthcare professionals will have more hours each day to focus on their R&D programmes and their absolute priority of delivering excellent healthcare services."

For more insights into the challenge of speed facing healthcare organisations, visit to download the full article and infographic and watch the video.

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