Digital transformation in healthcare: a 2023 review

Adam Said explores the current state of digital healthcare, the rise of CRM system integration and five barriers to digital transformation…


Digital transformation in healthcare: a 2023 review

Adam Said explores the current state of digital healthcare, the rise of CRM system integration and five barriers to digital transformation…


Meet the author

Adam Said


The current state of digital healthcare

The combination of pre and post-pandemic pressures has resulted in an enormous strain on the healthcare industry today. Many solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges, ranging from addressing the growing backlog of medical cases and meeting demand in spite of staff shortages, to the scale-up of new COVID-19 variant tests, have been made possible through the adoption of digital technology and data analytics solutions. 

The National Health Service (NHS) has been at the forefront of digital transformation in healthcare, with a range of initiatives aimed at improving patient care and streamlining processes through the use of technology. The future of digital healthcare in England looks promising, with the potential to bring significant benefits to patients through improved access, accuracy, and efficiency. Over recent years we have gradually observed technology begin to play a significant role in everyday practice; such as the increased use of electronic health records (EHRs), which improve the accuracy and speed of diagnoses and treatment (1); the rise of telemedicine services, which has been especially valuable for patients in rural or remote areas, or those who have mobility issues that make it difficult to access in-person care (2); and most recently, the increased use of AI and machine learning, which has proven its potential to improve the efficiency and accuracy of diagnoses and treatment, as well as help to identify patterns and trends in large amounts of data. The NHS has largely implemented the use of AI in oncology practices, such as radiotherapy planning and cancer diagnosis (3).

The rise of CRM system integration in healthcare

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are used by many businesses to manage interactions between customers and clients, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Over recent years, CRM systems in healthcare have been used as a key tool to help to improve patient care by streamlining communication and data management between healthcare providers, patients, and other stakeholders (4), and by 2025 its market value is expected to exceed $20,000m.


Figure 1. Healthcare CRM market worldwide between 2016 and 2025, by application. Data sourced from Statista.

One of the main benefits of CRM integrations in healthcare is the ability to manage patient records and interactions in a central location, improving the accuracy and efficiency of diagnoses and treatment by providing healthcare providers with easy access to a complete and up-to-date view of a patient’s medical history. CRM systems can hence also be used to manage appointments, follow-up care, and other interactions between patients and healthcare providers, improving communication and collaboration between the different stakeholders. For example, a CRM system could be used to facilitate communication between a primary care physician and a specialist or to coordinate care between different healthcare providers (5).

However, whilst CRM integrations have the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare system through streamlining communication and information management, it is important to carefully consider the potential risks and challenges surrounding healthcare’s newest digital opportunities (6).

Five barriers to digital transformation in healthcare

In spite of the recent advances made within digital healthcare, several barriers have been identified which may restrict its integration into everyday practice (7). Addressing these is essential for the NHS and other healthcare systems to fully realise the potential benefits of digital technologies in improving patient care and outcomes. Some key areas include: 

    1. Access to digital services

      There are still many patients and communities who do not have access to digital healthcare services, including those in rural or remote areas and those with limited technological access or literacy. This can further the poverty gap and health equity crisis if not addressed, particularly considering the share of rural households with internet access has remained stagnant since 2017 (8) – a lot of work is required to ensure those communities with less access to digital services are brought along on the digital healthcare transformation journey.

    2. Digital skills and literacy

      Many healthcare providers and staff within the NHS do not have the digital skills and knowledge needed to effectively use and implement digital technologies in everyday practice. As such, effective training and change management is needed to ensure a smooth transition into increased digital practice – this will form a key component of digital integration in healthcare.

    3. Interoperability

      There are often issues with the exchange of information between different digital systems within the NHS, which can make it difficult to share and access patient data and records across different healthcare settings. As of 2023, the NHS is 75 years old – with this legacy comes an outdated system, whereby patient data is stored in silos, rather than following a patient’s end-to-end healthcare journey. Connecting these silos as part of a wider system restructure can enable digital operations to drive practice across departments and providers, enabling a holistic view on patient care. This is yet to be fulfilled due to the rigorous regulations and policies which govern patient data privacy (9).

    4. Data quality

      There are concerns about the accuracy and completeness of patient data within the NHS, which can impact the effectiveness of digital healthcare services. Without a clear strategy to improve and manage data quality alongside digital expansion, practitioners will not be able to reap the benefits of digital services. 90% of UK and US practitioners have noted an increase in the quality of their work with digital systems due to better access to patient files, data and images (10).

    5. Data security and privacy

      The NHS handles large amounts of sensitive patient data, and there have been concerns about the security and privacy of this data, particularly in regard to data breaches and cyber-attacks. Past security breaches, such as 2017’s WannaCry cyber-attack have cost the NHS upwards of £92M in patient-care disruptions and IT system recovery (11). Following the recent introduction of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), healthcare organisations are liable to the protection of patient data access and safe use (12). Hence, significant consideration for cybersecurity is required with the upscaling of digital healthcare services.


Overall, the implementation of new technologies is expected to have a major impact on the way that healthcare services are delivered to patients; streamlining processes and improving the accuracy and efficiency of diagnoses and treatment. However, healthcare providers must consider the above-mentioned challenges in forward planning to successfully adopt new digital healthcare solutions. This will require investments in infrastructure, training, and other resources to ensure that healthcare providers and patients have access to the digital tools and services they need.

Most prominently, we can anticipate significant investments in:

  1. Funding for rural/remote areas and patient populations (eg. care homes) to have equitable access to digital services.
  2. Training for healthcare staff to implement new tech solutions into everyday practice.
  3. Developing a long-term strategy to improve data quality and collection methods, to render future tech implementations useful.
  4. Cybersecurity protection and protocols

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