The Digital Dimension of Health Care

George C. Halvorson, Peter Goldsbrough, Simon Kennedy, James Kent, Karalee Close, and Daniel Becker| BCG.Perspectives

Digital and social media have transformed industries as diverse as music and banking, and consumers and companies alike are benefiting from new channels, lower transaction costs, and a widening range of products and services.

Digital innovation has the potential to unlock similar value in health care. It can expand access to health services and improve their quality and productivity; it can equip patients with the tools to manage their own health and wellness; and it can lend new energy to public-health initiatives. To date, however, the health care sector has been slow to embrace the technologies that have revolutionized other industries, even as it continues to grapple with deep-seated problems associated with cost, quality, and access to care. Providers, payers, and patients are all losing out.

The challenge for the twenty-first century is to reengineer the way that health care is produced and delivered. Innovation from digital and social media is part of the answer, but there is only so much that innovators, providers, and patients can do on their own. To unlock the full benefits of digital innovation in health care, policymakers must remove barriers to faster adoption and encourage experimentation and development. In a report prepared in conjunction with the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, lead author George C. Halvorson and The Boston Consulting Group outline six principles that can help policymakers ensure that digital and social media lead to a more effective health-care system.

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