Beyond the human ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and insurers had to gather and report data on a new and sweeping condition almost overnight, and banks and financial services companies had to accommodate the near-total virtualization of customer interactions and unforeseen spikes in trading activity. Frost & Sullivan spoke to industry leaders about these challenges and what role technologies played in addressing them.
The Transformation of Healthcare IT
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that became law in 2010 included a mandate to digitize medical records. Data now plays an unprecedented role in healthcare, and cloud infrastructure has become integral to its management and use.
Information technology (IT) has been the fastest-growing major market in the healthcare industry, with annual revenue increases of about 15%1 since 2016 expected to continue through 2025. In comparison, Frost & Sullivan anticipates annual growth rates of between 4.0% and 5.5% for pharmaceuticals and medical devices over the same period. The demand for healthcare data analytics also is on the rise: Frost & Sullivan research shows that the global market will expand from $16 billion in 2018 to almost $39 billion by 2023.2
The technology and resulting data that support doctors, nurses, first responders, and other healthcare workers is changing as well. As the vice president for technology and enterprise applications at a major healthcare company told Frost & Sullivan: “We are very close to eliminating the PC from the clinical environment.” The company is exploring the move to handheld devices that, being more convenient and easier to update, can make data collection and use uniform across a hospital network and facilitate “a far more mobile workforce” that can quickly adapt to any change in procedure or interaction with patients and colleagues.
The same data that allows insurers, drug and equipment manufacturers, and providers to optimize operations, enhance offerings, and improve patient interactions and outcomes puts a strain on healthcare IT departments that oversee regulatory compliance. Data security is top of mind: a recent Frost & Sullivan study3 found that the most significant challenge (and main area of investment) for healthcare IT teams is security. Incumbent IT solutions are commonly replaced because of security-related issues, and security-related features are a deciding factor for new solutions.
Data security had been a compelling reason for keeping healthcare information on premises, but this changed in 2020. Virtual visits increased tenfold4 during the pandemic, launching a new standard for care that is likely to continue. Teleradiology helped systems save money, and some organizations even used artificial intelligence technologies to sort through test backlogs and preread results. Moving to the cloud gives healthcare providers and insurers the flexibility, scalability, and security to adapt to the influx and complexity of data and applications while saving on hardware and personnel costs.
Hospitals that already used cloud solutions seemed to manage new reporting mandates much better than those that relied on on-site solutions. An executive for a leading health information solutions provider told Frost & Sullivan: “On-prem is not going to work. If you have cloud …you can scale and expand it immediately. You cannot just go and buy the hardware, set it up, and get it up and running in few days.”
An Unprecedented Test for the Financial Sector
Scaling also was a challenge for the financial sector during the intense period of data generation and online activity in the early weeks of the pandemic. Banks arguably moved most quickly to the cloud to improve operational efficiency, create new solutions and revenue streams, and enhance customer experience.
Justin Peterson, chief technology officer at Tradeweb, said that, while unprecedented, his company was prepared when trading spiked at the beginning of the pandemic; in March 2020, Tradeweb saw exceptionally high activity, reporting an average of $1trillion in daily trade volume. Tradeweb was one of the first to build the business model for innovative online-trading back in the mid-1990s, and has kept an industry-leading position in regards to technology. “Our systems held up well,” Peterson said, noting that “we’ve always had a focus on performance and capacity.” Peterson observed that many fintechs were not as well equipped and “ran into some notable capacity problems performance problems … [But] we pride ourselves on being able to perform well during those times.” Peterson stated that his organization’s client-centric approach helped assist customers needing to access data from their newly remote circumstances. The company had to accommodate the possibility that its clients were logging in from less secure devices or networks. However, Tradeweb worked to ensure activity could be secure, efficient, and effective.
Customer Experience Will Continue to Drive Technological Advances
An engaging digital customer experience already distinguished leading vendors in the healthcare and financial spaces, especially for well-entrenched practices such as emailing a personal physician or conducting trades via a phone app. The pandemic, however, triggered a rapid and near-complete shift of all non-emergency interactions to the virtual realm. Frost & Sullivan determined that doctors and patients generally prefer video-based interactions when an in-person examination is not necessary, such as for routine check-ins regarding remotely monitored chronic conditions—an indication that these changes will be permanent.
The pandemic also emphasized the importance of an effective digital strategy for operations, including secure cloud-based infrastructure that enables flexibility in systems and applications and eliminates worries about spending too much or too little on physical solutions. Security measures now rival or even exceed those available on premises, addressing another concern in industries that manage huge volumes of customer and business data. A cloud or hybrid cloud setup also frees businesses to focus on core competencies—whether the health of a patient or a portfolio—rather than redirect expensive resources to peripherals.
1 Source: Vision 2025—Rising Healthcare Expenditures and Disproportionate Improvement in Patient Outcomes Spur Disruptive Changes in the Global Healthcare Industry, December 2020
2 Source: Digital Trends in Healthcare—Global, 2019 to 2023
3 Source: Digital Trends in Healthcare—Global, 2019 to 2023
4 Source: Frost & Sullivan’s Post-pandemic Global Healthcare Market Outlook, 2020