Digitalisation: the biggest obstacles for the healthcare industry

Dortmund | 17. October 2019

The healthcare sector still has a long way to go when it comes to digitalisation, according to a recent study by the industry network Healthcare Frauen (HCF). The IT service provider adesso lent its support to the study. However, the issue is now firmly on the minds of the sector’s decision makers.

HCF’s “DIG-IN Digitaler Healthcare Index 2019” provides reliable figures on digitalisation in the healthcare sector for the first time. adesso sponsored the study and played an instrumental role in its design. The study was based on a nationwide online survey of senior and middle management staff from the industry regarding the impact of digitalisation.

Special attention was paid to the digital maturity of the healthcare companies. Among other things, the executives surveyed were asked to assess the current digital maturity of their employers based on aspects such as customer experience, product innovation, process digitalisation, culture, expertise and transformation management. The result? The digitalisation of the healthcare industry has so far been slow to progress.

For example, just 5 % of the managers surveyed said their companies were digital leaders, while 25 % believed their employers were digital transformers. At 41 %, the lion’s share of the group classified their businesses as digital followers, with 26 % saying that they worked for digital beginners. Only 3 % of those surveyed called their companies “non-digitals” that had so far seen little to no digitalisation of their business processes. The industry’s overall average level of digitalisation stood at 49 %.

“The healthcare industry still has room to grow when it comes to digitalisation,” says Emily Andreae, Head of Business Development Health at adesso, a member of Healthcare Frauen and the project manager of the study. However, the health economist still does not see the results as a reason to be pessimistic: “The issue is now firmly implanted in the minds of decision makers, and they know that they have to make a change somewhere. We hear that time and again whenever we talk to industry leaders. One of the main reasons for this is the extremely high priority afforded to the digitalisation of the healthcare sector in the latest legislative package proposed by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health.”

However, many companies in the sector are still having a hard time following through on their plans, according to the expert. Andreae sees three main obstacles that businesses need to overcome: “The first challenge often consists of developing a viable strategy for digitalisation. Once the strategy has been finalised, companies often have difficulty involving their employees in the digitalisation process and establishing new roles.” The third major challenge lies in the high degree of differentiation and specialisation within today’s corporate structures, which makes it difficult for a company to establish a community in which all members of staff share a common digitalisation vision.


Emily Andreae is Head of Business Development in the area of "Health" at adesso. As a member of the industry network Healthcare Women she is project manager of the study "DIG-IN Digitaler Healthcare Index 2019", sponsored by adesso.

“Digital transformation is nothing that companies in the healthcare industry can achieve effortlessly. It takes more than just launching a new project or setting up a new department,” Andreae says. “The road to digital leadership is more about addressing fundamental questions of business focus and about forging new paths. Proven, scientifically sound assessments can help them derive perfectly tailored strategies to achieve their digital vision based on their status quo.”

As part of the latest DIG-IN study, HCF and the market research institute IFAK surveyed a total of 110 senior and middle managers from the healthcare sector in May 2019. The full report is available for download at www.dig-in-health.de. The digital healthcare index survey is scheduled to be repeated annually until 2023.

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