Healthcare leaders take steps toward business agility

Critical investments are paying off, but the sector has a long way to go

Healthcare leaders implemented critical agile principles to improve agility during COVID.

The pandemic hit the healthcare sector from all sides. Employees who were in contact with COVID-19 patients were suddenly at extreme risk. Demand for support services spiked. Revenues took a dive as non-elective procedures were canceled and people canceled routine-care appointments.

The crisis galvanized healthcare executives to become more agile. According to a new global survey of executives in five major sectors—finance, healthcare, manufacturing, public sector, and telecom—healthcare leaders took immediate steps to improve business agility in several key areas, including risk management, data, workforce recruiting, and R&D innovation.

Here are some other healthcare highlights from the survey.

As the need became urgent for technology solutions for everything from vaccine development to supply chain breakdowns, the healthcare sector responded with a 5x improvement in the percentage of organizations with agile R&D innovation. The sector still has a long way to go: A year after the onset of the pandemic, only 25% of healthcare executives regard their R&D practices as agile.

Frontline healthcare workers were under enormous pressure in the early stages of the crisis. It didn’t help that healthcare employers relied almost entirely on legacy hiring systems and processes. Today, 23% of healthcare execs consider their hiring and onboarding systems to be agile, a nearly eightfold improvement.

Over the next two years, most healthcare executives expect a high or very high return on investments in IoT (64%) and cloud services (63%) to boost agility. During the crisis, healthcare organizations saw the biggest returns on immediate investments from digitizing workflows and remote working. More than half (58%) expect to continue to see significant returns from the same investments in remote work over the next two years.

Roughly 7 in 10 healthcare executives cite improved employee engagement as a key benefit of digital enterprise platforms. That aligns with the sector’s commitment to hiring and onboarding as its top agile-investment priority over the next two years. Other top benefits of digital platforms in healthcare include improved communications (68%) and profitability (45%).

Healthcare executives see the lack of a clear vision or strategic plan as their organizations’ greatest barrier to improving agility. As the pandemic made clear, the lack of agile systems made it difficult for companies to adapt to new demands. As companies ramp up investments in key areas, their executives need to follow the strategic roadmap to its end in order to ensure significant returns.