By Corinne Dive-Reclus and Dr. Tim M. Jaeger

Almost everything we do these days has gone digital. The glaring exception has been health care.

In a world of more than 5 billion internet users, with 67% of us already using mobile devices, patients suffer from the slow uptake of digital health technologies. And health care providers can see the potential of data-driven insights to improve how they deliver care. Before the pandemic, although 81% of health care providers found it difficult to manage data across care settings, such as in the lab and in- and out-patient settings, 95% believed it was important to do so, according to a Harvard Business Review–Analytic Services report.

With health care so central to our lives, why has it lagged on digital?

The challenge is one of digital infrastructure. The data is out there, but unless it is connected, integrated, organized, and activated, health systems struggle to translate it into personalized, patient-centered health care and wellness. Labs and providers need to integrate data streams from various sources for meaningful insights.

But even after a slow start, digital transformation can happen quickly. For all the struggles the Covid-19 pandemic brought to families, communities, and health systems, it has catalyzed the adoption of digital health technologies.

The pandemic fundamentally altered and reimagined the roadmap to tomorrow’s digitized health space. The value of medically actionable insights and rapid collaboration across borders is now widely recognized.

And it’s also clear that solutions, backed by scientific evidence, will play a fundamental role in advancing personalized patient- or human-centered care. Open digital ecosystems—virtual networks of health care innovators and technology providers that connect online and interact digitally—are key for creating access to these breakthroughs and creating value for everyone, especially patients.

Wanted: A Holistic Mindset

It starts with a clear focus on using digital innovations to integrate health science data. But it’s not enough to connect siloed health care data across incompatible point-of-care devices, lab instruments, and hospital systems. The true challenge faced by healthcare providers and payers everywhere is turning disconnected data into medically actionable insights in a context of competing priorities and limited resources.

Successful transformations start with a holistic mindset that includes a diverse network of innovative collaborators and a clear purpose focused on patients’ needs. At the center of every digital ecosystem is a platform: the robust, open digital infrastructures and services that enable an entire network of diverse players to share data more easily and securely.

This means not just connecting labs, hospitals, and diverse point-of-care settings but also enabling interactions with other health care groups and third-party innovators. To make this connection work, specialty teams must continuously collaborate with healthcare players and technology companies globally by digitizing infrastructures using both on-premises and cloud-based technologies.

We need to approach this challenge from a health-science context and always with a view to supporting the entire patient journey, raising the standard of health care delivery and moving the center of care from a focus on disease to a focus on patients’ needs.

Importing Innovations from Anywhere

Once a stable, modern digital infrastructure is in place, an open ecosystem will allow health providers to use external innovations for operational excellence and medical insights.

Health care providers can use “safe portals,” or virtual marketplaces, to explore digital innovations from a range of local and global innovators. They can decide which digital settings and data needs, such as workflow decision-support or disease management solutions, are most appropriate for their communities and health care settings.

Good ideas can be found anywhere. That’s why it is vital to link with a partner that takes an open approach to sharing innovative, science-based solutions and identifying other players across a global network.

Digital Evidence-Based Approaches

Digital solutions are constantly evolving. The proliferation of tools and players in the digital health space makes this field exciting and full of potential. Yet credible digital solutions in health require a scientific, evidence-based approach combined with compliance with regulations on health, cybersecurity, and data privacy.

To deliver proven value to the broader health care community, a digital solution requires close and early collaboration among health care provider leaders around the world—what we call a “health science approach.” As we work to create these open digital ecosystems, we can also nimbly sense and respond to changes in what health care professionals and patients need—and demonstrate with robust evidence that solutions provide true (clinical) utility, benefiting health care systems and impacting patient care.

Navigating the Digital World

Hospital and health care leaders need integrated, secure solutions that add medical insights and value to their health care operations to improve efficiencies, save time or money, and help improve patient care. Digital health solutions help connect data silos for better insights, drive operational excellence for labs and hospitals, and enable clinicians to make more confident care decisions.

Health care systems have waited too long to unlock the full potential of digital health. Patients should no longer have to wait. Digital ecosystems are the future of health care, empowering health leaders to digitize point-of-care settings and advance patient-centered care.



Corinne Dive-Reclus is head of Lab Insights and Dr. Tim M. Jaeger is head of Provider Insights at Roche Information Solutions.

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