The adoption of IT in health care systems has, in general, followed the same pattern as other industries. In the 1950s, when institutions began using new technology to automate highly standardized and repetitive tasks such as accounting and payroll, health care payors and other industry stakeholders also began using IT to process vast amounts of statistical data. Twenty years later, the second wave of IT adoption arrived. It did two things: it helped integrate different parts of core processes (manufacturing and HR, for example) within individual organizations, and it supported B2B processes such as supply-chain management for different institutions within and outside individual industries. As for its effects on the health care sector, this second wave of IT adoption helped bring about, for example, the electronic health card in Germany. It was also a catalyst for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in the United States—an effort to promote the adoption of health-information technology—and the National Programme for IT in the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. Regardless of their immediate impact, these programs helped create an important and powerful infrastructure that certainly will be useful in the future.

Many institutions in the private and public sector have already moved to the third wave of IT adoption—full digitization of their entire enterprise, including digital products, channels, and processes, as well as advanced analytics that enable entirely new operating models. No longer limited to helping organizations do a certain task better or more efficiently, digital technology has the potential to affect every aspect of business and private life, enabling smarter choices, allowing people to spend more time on tasks they deem valuable, and often fundamentally transforming the way value is created. What will this third wave of IT adoption look like for health care?

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