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How Will Digital Transformation for Healthcare Evolve in 2023?

digital transformation in healthcare

In healthcare and life sciences, disruption is always near. Whether swift change arrives through new regulations, soaring consumer expectations, or a global pandemic, operational and consumer goals require agility. But how can healthcare and life sciences become nimbler in 2023, in the face of evolving business models and tightening budget constraints? The answer is digital transformation. While 99% of organizations in the sector consider this approach worth exploring, just 12% are fully digital, according to new Salesforce research. That means the year ahead is ripe for innovation.

What Is Digital Transformation for Healthcare?

Digital transformation is the process by which healthcare and life sciences organizations overhaul the enterprise, integrating disparate data, connecting decision makers to real-time insights, and automating burdensome administrative tasks. It’s an undertaking that shifts a company from the on-premises, manual, siloed past to the cloud-based, automated, connected future. As healthcare begins to navigate a difficult year, digital transformation promises to create efficiencies while reducing costs. Across the industry, organizations say that goal is their top priority for the next two years, according to Salesforce research. Digital transformation offers the agility that organizations need if they are to do more with less.

Research from Salesforce shows that healthcare and life sciences companies expect, above all, digital transformation to result in improved organization-wide data management, lowered operational costs, and automated workflows. 

Technology is poised to reduce administrative costs, which make up about one-quarter of the nearly $4 trillion spent on healthcare annually in the United States. 

Going digital is particularly appealing amid a wave of consumerization in which nearly three-quarters of industry executives prioritize improving consumer trust and satisfaction.

Macroeconomic turbulence is exacerbating recent challenges, such as high costs and increasingly distributed workforces. Globally, Salesforce research shows, 57% of healthcare and life sciences organizations work under a hybrid model, a figure slated to grow to 63% within two years. Integrating electronic health data is a longstanding industry goal, and as more care and operations occur outside traditional settings, interoperability becomes even more challenging — and even more important.

By consolidating and democratizing data, digital transformation delivers the flexibility that healthcare and life sciences need to address incessant pain points and respond to new needs.

Picture this: Healthcare professionals use innovative software to access unified, real-time clinical data and then extract insights with artificial intelligence and machine learning. That gives care teams a holistic snapshot of patients, allowing informed care decisions in the clinic and through virtual care. Automation then streamlines information exchange between payers and providers. It’s all possible today.

“The benefits of digital transformation in healthcare can be truly lifesaving, both for organizations and the consumers they serve,” said Dr. Geeta Nayyar, SVP, Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce. “As budgets shrink and costs skyrocket, the healthcare and life sciences industries have no choice but to invest in technology that enables them to do more with less.” 

Life sciences companies may have provided a glimpse of what’s to come when they said they plan to keep 99% of the digital tools first adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet the ways in which healthcare leverages technology is already evolving to help organizations overcome new obstacles.

Here are some major trends that stand to influence digital transformation for healthcare and life sciences in 2023.

Care from anywhere

The people have spoken: They love telemedicine. As patients push for access to virtual care, 80% of consumers say they want access to remote patient monitoring. Offering alternatives to in-person visits is especially beneficial to the 47% of lower-income consumers who experience challenges getting to doctor’s appointments. 

To meet the demand, healthcare organizations need the digital infrastructure to support diverse patient needs. Solutions that enable remote patient monitoring, intelligent appointment management, medication management, and regulatory compliance are essential to that mission.

It’s not enough to offer virtual care. You need digital innovations that bring healthcare to where people are and simplify everyone’s lives, from patients to pharmacists to physicians.

Dr. Geeta Nayyar, SVP, Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce

 A hybrid workforce

The hybrid model — a blend of remote and in-person work — may have grown more popular since 2020 as a matter of necessity, but its impact will remain. Since Covid-19, 78% of employees said their employer was either planning to introduce new ways of working or already had — up from 9% in 2019. Nearly 90% of healthcare executives say remote work improves competition for talent, and Salesforce research shows 75% of pharmaceutical companies and 68% of medical devices companies are already hybrid. More organizations expect to follow in the next two to five years.

More than half of healthcare organizations invested in digital collaboration tools that support remote work. Yet just 35% of industry applications and systems are split both on premises and on the cloud, according to Salesforce research. Eighty percent of healthcare and life sciences organizations that have migrated their customer relationship management platform to the cloud say it has helped them drive revenue, lower costs, and meet goals.

Healthcare and life sciences organizations that invest in automated workflows and internal digital collaboration tools position themselves to lower costs and reduce the time required to complete tasks.

“More productivity with fewer resources sounds like a pipe dream,” Dr. Nayyar said. “But it’s totally achievable if you implement the technologies that empower your team to do their best work, no matter where they are.”

Evolving business models

Forty percent of healthcare and life sciences executives point to fundamental shifts in the healthcare value chain as a top external disruption factor. Consider retail health, which has given rise to convenient clinics in grocery stores and shopping plazas across the U.S., angling to claim 30% of the primary care market by 2030. As business models adjust, so does technology’s role within an organization — and every segment undergoes a digital transformation all its own.

  • Payers are deploying next-generation managed care models, incorporating care delivery and advanced analytics to better serve individuals. 
  • Providers are turning to tech-enabled care models, unlocking value by integrating digital and non-acute settings into a comprehensive, coordinated, and lower-cost offering.
  • Pharma players are racing to deliver personalized medicine from anywhere. Cell and gene therapies are expected to see annual sales grow by 40% per annum from 2019 to 2024. These innovations come with challenges, such as high upfront costs and unique infrastructure and supply chain requirements. 
  • Medtech companies are capitalizing on the surging value of data to advance commercial excellence. Companies that make diagnostic equipment such as X-ray and MRI machines, for instance, are incorporating sensors, AI, and the internet of things, all of which support technicians’ decision-making.

“Healthcare and life sciences companies are maturing in countless unique directions,” said Amit Khanna, SVP & GM, Healthcare and Life Sciences at Salesforce. “That’s why each organization’s technology strategy must match its specific needs. The key is to overcome data overload so that you can derive and act on meaningful insights, cut costly administrative tasks, and charm consumers.”

Increasing digital differentiation

Since 2020, the share has nearly doubled of healthcare and life sciences leaders who say digital offerings are an important way of gaining a competitive advantage. With rising consumer expectations, 93% of healthcare executives say they’re innovating with a sense of urgency.  

Yet healthcare is one of the least digitally mature industries, and about half of life sciences chief executives concede that prior investments in personalizing the consumer experience aren’t delivering the expected growth benefits. In response, those leaders are shifting their focus toward demonstrating value to consumers. 

There’s no question, however, that digital transformation can produce stark benefits. One study found that technology enthusiasts in healthcare spend almost half as long on administrative work as others do. These tech trailblazers use tools such as AI and speech recognition driven by machine learning, allowing providers to record information at the point of care and cut documentation time by 45%.

Do more with less is the mantra of 2023. That applies internally, to how your organization functions, and externally, to how you engage consumers and deliver exceptional experiences.

Amit Khanna, SVP & GM, Healthcare and Life Sciences at Salesforce

Securely democratizing data

In early 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the Cures Act Final Rule, which calls for open certified APIs to encourage the secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. The Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) selected a foundational standard, HL7 FHIR, to support data exchange via secure APIs. Stronger interoperability and data integration promise to enable healthcare organizations to derive value from their troves of data, better engaging and treating patients.

Yet ease of access can’t come at the expense of data security. More than 500 healthcare providers fell victim in 2020 to ransomware attacks, which can result in EHR downtime, ambulance diversions, appointment cancellations, and other setbacks. All told, during the pandemic, roughly one-third of healthcare organizations were hit by ransomware attacks, each costing $1.27 million on average to rectify.

The in-flux nature of healthcare data calls for improved data management. The key for healthcare and life sciences? Consolidate and integrate all available data — and data solutions — to focus on secure, interoperable information that produces actionable insights.

“Data is great, but data overload is crippling,” Dr. Nayyar said. “Healthcare and life sciences need intelligent insights that nurture their success.”

Healthcare’s digital skills gap

Staying on top of 2023’s challenges requires digital transformations that improve data management, integrate systems, and develop a holistic view of the enterprise. Low-code technology platforms that support fast and easy integrations are vital for healthcare and life sciences to realize this vision.

But the industry must also overcome a persistent skills gap. New Salesforce research shows 39% of healthcare and life sciences organizations point to staffing constraints as a barrier to digital transformation. Salesforce’s Global Digital Skills Index, which gathered responses from 23,000 workers, including 1,800 in healthcare, elaborates on the challenge:

  • 34% of respondents feel very ready for workplace digital skills needed now and in the future.
  • 14% of respondents report having advanced workplace digital skills.
  • 24% of respondents in the healthcare industry are very actively participating in learning or training to gain digital skills.
  • 23% of respondents in the healthcare industry say they are very equipped with the digital skills needed now and in five years.

Workplace digital skills that healthcare respondents think will be important in the next five years include:

  • Collaboration technology (70%)
  • Digital administrative (69%)
  • Encryption and cybersecurity (64%)
  • Data science, database management, analytical (63%)

Digital transformation in healthcare: Case studies

Although healthcare innovation has a long way to go, some forward-thinking organizations are showing the industry just what it can accomplish with the right skills and technology.

John Muir Health

Healthcare system John Muir Health relies on building a comprehensive picture of each patient, even if they access care through multiple doctors, hospitals, and clinics. John Muir Health leverages a cutting-edge data platform to unify data while also using the cloud to improve real-time patient communication. 

As a result, patients can ask questions and receive information through their preferred communication channel, such as email or SMS. 

“This technology helps us to truly focus on empathy and put the patient at the center of everything we do,” said David Hook, Executive Director of Marketing & Digital Consumer Experience at John Muir Health.


As a major U.S. public health insurer, Humana’s leaders had to answer a vexing question: How can you form trusted relationships at scale?

They opted to build a single source of truth, providing teams, partners, and caregivers with a shared view of member data. The digital transformation has eased claims processing and personalized wellness journeys alike.

“Everybody has their own unique journey and healthcare needs,” said Chris Walker, Associate Vice President, Engagement Marketing. “And it’s so important to be able to treat individuals as individuals.”

Advanced Recovery Systems

Integrated behavioral healthcare management company Advanced Recovery Systems used its data platform to stand up its consumer digital health platform, Nobu, in under a month. 

“We’ve been able to offer our patients telehealth services and other behavioral health tools in real time to stay engaged with them along their entire journey,” said Allison Walsh, VP of Business Development at Advanced Recovery Systems. 

Teladoc Health

Teladoc Health is leveraging its virtual care technology to support patient care at scale, providing services to thousands of clients around the world. 

Digital innovations, said Claus Jensen, Chief Innovation Officer at Teladoc Health, allow the company “to deliver transformative, whole-person virtual care.” 

Ovation Medical

Ovation Medical uses the cloud to deliver more secure engagements with consumers online. 

“As a company focused on providing orthopedic and podiatry equipment to thousands of medical facilities throughout the U.S., secure automation and agility are key to our business operations,” said Erik Rost, VP of Sales at Ovation Medical. 

A secure portal, Rost added, allows Ovation Medical “to put our current accounts on autopilot with peace of mind, freeing up our representatives to engage in meaningful conversations about new medical products and how we can further assist our customers.”

Sharpening healthcare digital transformation skills

It’s more convenient than ever to prepare a workforce to undertake a successful digital transformation. For example:

  • The Trailblazer Community is a network of 15 million people who help each other learn new skills and succeed with Salesforce. 
  • The Pathfinder Training Program is a workforce development initiative designed to train individuals with the technical, business, and soft skills necessary to pursue a career in the Salesforce ecosystem. 
  • The Salesforce Talent Alliance connects Salesforce partner companies to job candidates trained on Salesforce through Trailhead and brings new talent into the fast-growing ecosystem.
  • Tableau Academic provides free software licenses, eLearning, and curriculum to help educators around the world teach analytics in classrooms. Since 2011, Tableau Academic programs have enabled nearly 2 million students and teachers from accredited institutions around the world.

There are also numerous healthcare-specific training opportunities, including three HIMSS certification programs. Harvard Medical School, Columbia Business School, and Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business offer accelerated programs in digital transformation in healthcare. Imperial College London offers a free course.  

There’s also Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, which has empowered 3.9 million people to learn in-demand skills for the future of work. Healthcare-specific offerings cover CRM analytics for healthcare administration, cybersecurity, and much more. 

What 2023 holds for healthcare and life sciences companies

As healthcare and life sciences confront new challenges, digital transformation can prime organizations to meet this moment head on. More robust data management strategies, automated workflows, and real-time insights reveal untapped opportunities to create efficiencies and improve consumer experiences. Weathering uncertainty calls for a skilled workforce and technology that enables them to thrive.

Learn more about developing a 360-degree view of healthcare organizations.


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