New Accenture study reveals emerging trends in digital health

The survey found that 85% of health executives believe that technology has become an inextricable part of life.
By Mallory Hackett
12:07 pm

Healthcare organizations must become more collaborative with patients, employees, partners and the public when creating digital innovations to have success in the future, according to research from Accenture.

The professional services company released its "Digital Health Technology Vision 2020" report that identified five trends that emerged before the COVID-19 pandemic, but that have only accelerated because of it.

The trends relate to digital patient experience, artificial intelligence, smart devices, robots and innovation.


The pandemic has turned digital technology into a lifeline for many. It has become the way people receive healthcare, get information about the virus, and stay in touch with family and friends. It's also become the way people entertain themselves during the lockdown.

The survey found that 85% of health executives believe that technology has become an inextricable part of life, and 70% of global consumers expect it to become an even bigger part of their lives in the next three years.

When it comes to the future of patient engagement, 90% of health executives believe organizations need to elevate their relationships with customers and partners if they hope to compete.

“People today expect more from their digital experiences,” the authors wrote in the report. “They want to feel important and as if the healthcare organization recognizes and takes notice of them. Gone are the days of mass services and black box personalization.”

The report says that organizations can set themselves up for future success by customizing the consumer experience and by giving consumers agency over their health decisions.

The future of AI is already in the works, with 69% of healthcare organizations saying they are piloting or adopting it. They can use AI by plugging it into existing workflows to automate processes, to screen and triage patients using chatbots, and to reconfigure supply chains, among other things.

To be successful when it comes to AI, healthcare organizations must work with AI, instead of simply automating the workflow, according to the report. This collaboration can be done through advancements in natural language processing to help people and machines better work together.

“Providers and payers that facilitate human-machine collaboration today will be able to reimagine every aspect of their organization, from the way they care for patients to the way they hire and train employees,” the report says. “True pioneers will use these capabilities to reinvent care delivery.”

Smart devices have become a more prominent presence as people invite them into their lives to help fight the COVID-19 virus and to share health data with their doctors. However, the study argues, while people do benefit from technology, people are concerned about how their data is used. Seventy percent of healthcare consumers surveyed said they are concerned about data privacy and commercial tracking associated with their online activities, behaviors, location and interests.

To combat that concern, the report suggests that healthcare organizations must ensure that their operating models are equipped to handle the ownership of consumer data. It also says that innovators must get comfortable releasing products that may seem unfinished at the time with the intention of transforming over time.

COVID-19 has moved robots out of the warehouse and into the healthcare system, according to the report. More than 70% of health executives said that robotics will enable the next generation of services in the physical world.

With the growing number of robots in the health sector, the report says that organizations must integrate them into the workforce in a way that produces trust with existing staff. The report found that 54% of health executives say their employees will be challenged to figure out how to work with robots.

“A proper introduction matters when it comes to bringing robots into healthcare settings,” the report says. “Gauge the sentiment, attitudes and fears of employees and consumers alike – and adapt accordingly.”

With 78% of the healthcare executives saying they believe that the stakes for innovation have never been higher, the report notes that “getting it right” will require new ways of innovating with ecosystem partners and third-party organizations.

“COVID-19 has not slowed digital technology innovation; rather, it’s amplifying it to historic levels,” said Dr. Kaveh Safavi, a senior managing director in Accenture’s Health practice and an author of the report, in a statement. “Given the current environment, healthcare organizations must elevate their technology agenda to explore emerging digital technologies that provide the right infrastructure to help people feel safer about using technology tools for their healthcare experience.”


This report was derived from Accenture’s annual Tech Vision 2020 report, which predicts trends likely to disrupt business in the near future.

The research team gathered input from Technology Vision External Advisory Board and conducted interviews with industry experts. It also conducted an online survey of over 6,000 business and IT executives from 25 different countries. The survey took responses from November 2019 to January 2020.

At the same time, the company surveyed 2,000 people in the U.S., U.K., China and India, with respondents representing different age and demographic groups, to understand the use and role of technology in people’s lives.


The idea that the technological innovations that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic are here to stay is not new.

Over the course of the pandemic, technology has been adapted to track, test and treat the virus. New advancements in digital therapeutics, online training, at-home testing and more have come onto the market recently. 


“The intersection between digital technology and healthcare experiences has certainly accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and leading the future of care will demand rethinking core assumptions about the intersection of people and technology,” Safavi said. “People’s perceptions of and relationships with technology are changing, and to adapt, healthcare payers and providers need to redesign digital experiences.”



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