Digital health ecosystems: Voices of key healthcare leaders

| Article

Amid the disruption of traditional medical care caused by COVID-19, some patients have found assistance via new online services, including digital bill submission, medical assistance, online teleconsultations, and online medications. Perhaps for the first time, these patients found themselves part of digital health ecosystems, which are networks of digital service providers that offer a single solution for users’ healthcare needs (see sidebar “Existing digital health ecosystems”).

Two recent McKinsey articles—“The next wave of healthcare innovation: The evolution of ecosystems” and “Digital health ecosystems: A payer perspective”—highlight the importance and potential of evolving digital health ecosystems, particularly for healthcare stakeholders. Questions remain, however, about the roles of different healthcare players, because they can differ significantly depending on each player’s market, strategy, customer base, and position in the value chain.

This article analyzes data from an interview series with 22 key international industry experts, as well as with 81 participants of our ninth Digital Healthcare Roundtable, to explore the following three themes: why and when healthcare players seek to provide digital healthcare solutions, what kind of digital health ecosystem healthcare players should provide, and how the implementation of a digital health ecosystem should be approached.

1. Why and when do healthcare players seek to provide digital healthcare solutions?

Digital health ecosystems have become increasingly relevant since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

How relevant are digital healthcare solutions for your business?
What is the main purpose of providing digital health services?

Integrating core products into digital health ecosystems and offering patient journeys are seen as critical

Do you agree with the following statements?

The implementation of digital healthcare solutions is often considered time critical but requires careful planning

How time critical is the implementation of digital healthcare solutions for you?

2. What kind of digital health ecosystem should healthcare players provide?

Convenience is seen as the main success factor for customers, followed by trust and impact on health outcomes

What do you consider the main success factors from a customer’s view?

The string-of-pearls approach, which is predominant across sectors in Europe, is preferred

Would you like to offer a string of pearls or a superapp?

An ideal minimal patient journey is ‘telemedicine to online pharmacy’

Which of these minimal viable patient journeys would be your starting position?

3. How should the implementation of a digital health ecosystem be approached?

Clear strategic direction and cultural transformations are seen as the main success factors for implementation, as well as collaborating with the right partners and having technological know-how

What do you consider the main success factors for the implementation of a digital health ecosystem?

Big-tech players, healthcare providers, and digital health start-ups are seen as the driving forces in the digital health ecosystem

Who do you think will be the driving force in the field of digital health solutions?

Participants prefer ‘making’ the front end while ‘collaborating on or buying’ the back end, with capabilities and speed being key decision factors

What would be your preferred sourcing model for ecosystem technology?

About the survey methodology

The voices of 103 healthcare leaders were represented in our survey.

Digital health ecosystems are more likely to succeed if players can identify their individual contributions and create their own road maps. Doing so depends on a number of factors, including size, business model, cultural fit, capabilities, experience, existing partnerships, and regulations specific to certain countries. Considering that all the respondents to our survey predict that digital health ecosystems will evolve in the next three years—or even within this year—it’s clear that players should move quickly to reflect on their position in the status quo and to determine the strengths of their roles in the digital healthcare landscape.

Do you want your voice to be heard? Share your views on digital health ecosystems by answering our digital health ecosystem survey on and receive an analysis of how your views compare with those of your peers.

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