By Chris Gauld, director at Equator – With an ageing population, pandemic weary societies, exponential growth in health and wellbeing spend, and an explosion of health data, it’s little wonder that healthcare is a key trend in private equity deal origination. In fact, according to Pitchbook, in 2020, healthcare was the third most active section in US PE deals, and fourth most active sector in Europe.
At Equator, we undertook research into twenty healthcare businesses that have seen a PE-backed buyout or significant growth funding in the last three years. We analysed them using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to uncover where they are on their digital journey along with insights into the sector’s digital growth.
More than 50 percent of traditional healthcare providers have yet to reap digital transformation rewards. Businesses in this space can lag behind in tech adoption and digitisation, but both can help them create value.
Improving patient and service-user experience
Investing in digital tools to improve the patient experience is a critical factor in acquiring and, more importantly, retaining customers while delivering a market standout service. There is a clear, untapped opportunity here. Example initiatives include:
- Using digital to remove paperwork, reduce data analysis time and circumvent unnecessary phone calls, letters and follow ups.
- Investing in digital appointment-making solutions, enabling prescribers to digitally book appointments for service users.
- Service-user ‘companion apps’ that embed technology, such as beacons, in care settings to serve location-driven digital content, fully-integrated appointment booking facilities, and video consultations. Platforms such as these also reduce patient admin costs and move the organisation towards paper-light digital experiences.
- Using machine learning and AI to support carers in their daily work, potentially as part of a toolkit to identify care needs as early as possible.
- Investing in the latest Field Service Management software to aid security, efficiency, and paperless working, especially in a post-COVID remote-working world.
- Investing in research to understand the needs and pain-points of employees and service providers better and develop digital tools around their requirements, which can improve auditability and efficiency, enhance the patient experience and, ultimately, drive better service outcomes.
It’s important to note that over time and through multiple acquisitions, core business systems such as web platforms and CRMs may have become ‘frankensteined.’ Healthcare businesses will benefit from a robust digital assessment of core platforms, ERP systems and sales and marketing solutions which will offer an independent view of where the business is and how to budget for the future.
Human centred design
Thinking of the users’ needs doesn’t end with digital. Great user experiences are possible through design, weaving insight and data into UX with the end user and their requirements in mind. Human-centred design is not a new concept. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve digital sales and loyalty. Organisations need to transform internal processes and customer experiences to accommodate evolving user preferences and expectations.
While over half of the sites we surveyed had been designed around user needs, all could benefit significantly from further optimisation. This could reduce journeys, while creating more structured and relevant content.
Any digital experience can be improved. This should be the mindset at any given moment – continuous optimisation. Whatever conversion rate a business attracts, it can be better. Conversion rate is the metric that can radically increase revenue – and yet most businesses overlook it, typically focusing on tracking volume and margin instead.
But knowing that your business could drive 10 percent more revenue from the same customer pool, merely by focusing on the customer journey and ordering process, is worth the attention and the effort.
Using AI to beat the competition
From our research it is evident that no one in healthcare is using smart tools or AI effectively to enhance the customer experience.
Every business faces increasing competition, and needs to use its agility to stay ahead. A fundamental way to achieve this at scale is to move towards a data-driven AI strategy.
However, none of the businesses we looked at appear to be using smart tools and AI to power their customer interactions or enhance experiences. They are missing the opportunity to become more integrated, intelligent and effective.
As far as web experiences go, smart tools like chatbots are increasingly central to guiding customers through complex problems, and AI can power smart merchandising based on customer activity to grow uptake. In a world where companies need to operate more efficiently and adapt faster, integrating these intelligent tools can create a real competitive advantage.
National lockdowns, health crises and home working brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic created an overnight shift in demand for remote and digital servicing. Ironically, the healthcare sector was one of the least prepared for such an eventuality, with both the NHS and private care providers rushing to find workable digital solutions. Fast-forward a year and most have found sufficiently effective care paths in digital, but this has exposed massive vulnerabilities and new risks for the sector.
The pandemic has created a patchwork of fixes. From doctors using Zoom to standalone cloud solutions for data management and storage, businesses embraced temp fixes that may not be GDPR-compliant or genuinely fit-for-purpose.
The sector’s challenge now is to convert this impetus into a serious, connected, and sustained solution – one that is patient-friendly and compliant while delivering cost and time efficiencies.