Innovation vs. Privacy: Healthcare’s Balancing Act

A lack of transparency is the industry’s biggest obstacle to digital sustainability. Third in Korn Ferry's Digital Sustainability series.

Constant, disruptive change is the new normal for organizations. Future success will be determined by their ability to transform not just once, but continuously. We call this “digital sustainability,” and we built a data-driven index to analyze what digitally sustainable organizations do differently. In this series, we share key findings from the research, including the leadership and organizational capabilities needed to thrive in the digital world.

Stephanie has not one, but two chronic illnesses. Her treatment requires her to see multiple specialists who each treat a particular aspect of her illness. To do so, they prescribe a cocktail of 11 different medications. The trouble is that there is no collaboration between the specialists and, as a result, Stephanie isn’t able to metabolize certain medications and her treatment plan is largely ineffective.

 Many Americans are familiar with this kind of healthcare shuffle. But it is also apparent globally as the industry grapples with balancing heightened consumer demands for openness and transparency against regulatory restrictions on privacy and its legacy opaqueness with employees and the public. In fact, the lack of Openness & Transparency is the biggest obstacle holding back the otherwise swift digital transformation efforts of the Life Sciences & Healthcare industries. A study commissioned by Korn Ferry and conducted by Oxford Analytica and The Korn Ferry Institute on digital sustainability, or the capacity of organizations to continually transform to respond to digital change, found the Life Sciences & Healthcare sector third out of the five industries measured. Life Sciences & Healthcare’s digital sustainability score totaled 42 out of 100, well ahead of the Consumer and Industrials sectors, but behind the Financial Services and Technology sectors.

“Protective barriers like the HIPAA requirement create a huge block on what healthcare organizations can and can’t do with data, that’s just the nature of a highly regulated industry,” said Gregory Button, president of Korn Ferry’s Global Healthcare Services practice. “But the paradigm is shifting to a more collaborative, open environment where primary care physicians and specialists are working across silos to develop more holistic treatment plans that take into account diet, hygiene, medication and more.”

The more innovations like Fitbit, the Apple watch, and healthy eating apps push the general population towards health and wellness, the more it helps healthcare organizations steer its sickest and most costly patients towards proactive and preventative care leveraging the basics of diet, hygiene, and exercise. Other changes, such as the Affordable Care Act in the US, mandates to implement electronic medical records, and the push for value-based care that allow healthcare providers to manage treatments in a more efficient, less costly way are also responsible for helping the Life Sciences & Healthcare industry score higher than any other sector in Agility—or the ability for rapid decision-making, execution, and response to environmental changes—with a score of 92 out of 100.

The global study, which ranked 362 organizations across 14 countries, reveals two other interesting data points for Life Sciences & Healthcare. Though the sector ranked second in Connectivity, defined as consistent collaboration with internal and external stakeholders, with a score of 28 out of 100, it was still some way behind Financial Services, which had a score of 91 out of 100.   Still, Life Sciences & Healthcare’s overall digital sustainability score (42) was just two points lower than 2nd place Technology (44). That suggests that as the industry continues to move to more collaborative models, its overall level of digital sustainability will strengthen.

“As innovation is so crucial in this industry, and products need to make it to market faster, market-leading ideas fueled by collaboration will help power success,” said Naomi Sutherland, Global Head of Life Sciences at Korn Ferry Hay Group. “A balance can be achieved that protects business-critical intellectual property but still allows for innovation through collaboration.”

To learn more, read our new Digital Sustainability report.

Read how other industries fared in the Korn Ferry Digital Sustainability Index:
Financial Services