Digital transformation of the health care sector: internet-based observational study

05 Apr 2018

Background: Digital innovation, introduced across many industries, is a strong force of transformation. Some industries have seen faster transformation, whereas the health care sector only recently came into focus. A context where “digital corporations” move into health care, payers strive to keep rising costs at bay and longer-living patients desire continuously improved quality of care, points to a digital and value based transformation with drastic implications for the health care sector. Objectives: We tried to operationalize the discussion within the health care sector around digital and disruptive innovation to identify what type of technological enablers, business models as well as value networks seem to be emerging in different groups of innovators with respect to their digital transformational efforts. Methods: Through Forbes 2000- and the CBinsights data base we identified 100 leading technology, life science and start-up companies active in the health care sector. Further analysis identified projects from these companies within a digital context that were subsequently evaluated using the criteria: delivery of patient value, presence of a comprehensive and distinctive underlying business model, solutions provided and the customer needs addressed. Results: Our methodological approach recorded more than 400 projects and collaborations. We identified patterns that show, established corporations rely more on incremental innovation that supports their current business models, while start-ups engage their flexibility to explore new market segments with notable transformations of established business models. Thereby, start-ups offer higher promises of disruptive innovation. Additionally, start-ups offer more diversified value propositions addressing broader areas of the health care sector. Conclusions: Digital transformation is an opportunity to accelerate health care performance by lowering cost and improving quality of care. At an economic scale on the one hand existing business models can be strengthened as well as disruptive innovation models enabled. Corporations should look for collaborations with start-up companies to keep investment costs at bay and off the balance sheet. At the same time, the regulatory knowledge of established corporations might help start-ups to kick off digital disruption in the health care sector.