With Apple and Google entering the healthcare space, healthcare companies need to get on board with technology if they want to remain relevant. Here’s what it will take to succeed in the digital age.

It’s no secret that digital technology has the power to disrupt entire industries.

Just look at what Uber has done to the taxi industry. Think about how Airbnb has changed the hospitality trade. Or consider the impact that iTunes has had on the music business.

The healthcare industry is next. And, perhaps not surprisingly, tech giants like Apple and Google are poised to lead the disruption. Apple just launched ResearchKit, a software framework designed to help researchers and developers create apps for medical studies. Google has invested in 23andMe, a genetic-testing company that sells $99 DNA kits, and it’s also backed Calico, a company that’s using advanced technologies to create interventions that counteract age-related diseases.

As a result, healthcare companies are at a crossroads: They can either get on board with technology, or get out of the way — and watch companies like Apple and Google crack the monopolies that have plagued the healthcare industry for decades.

In other words, change is in order. Taking a cue from the world’s most successful tech companies, healthcare companies need to fundamentally change in three core areas:

1. Use the power of technology to share information.
One of the reasons why Facebook continues to experience record-breaking growth is because it’s deeply attuned to what people want: control of and access to the world’s information. And it’s used the power of technology to make that possible.

Healthcare companies can learn something from this model. Think of what providing greater access to information (e.g., medical records, research data) would mean for the healthcare industry at large: Improved patient care. Advanced medical research. Expansion of healthcare services on a global level.

Technology can unlock this value. And it’s capable of providing that value while protecting patient privacy and mitigating legal risks. Think of it this way: If people can access bank transactions through their smartphone, there are ways to give them access to their own medical records while protecting their privacy, too.

2. Undergo a true digital transformation.
There’s a difference between investing in technology and undergoing a true “digital transformation.” The former relates to adopting social, mobile and cloud technologies, which healthcare has already done to a limited extent.

The latter takes it to a whole new level: It means integrating technology into management, infrastructure and organizational structures; using digital to improve the customer experience at every touchpoint; and changing business models to leverage technology to its fullest potential. It’s a holistic process that involves transformation from the ground up, and it’s what healthcare must strive for.

Why does this distinction matter? Because this is where the world is headed. With Amazon conquering retail shops and Netflix killing cable TV, it’s only a matter of time before healthcare companies are facing a do-or-die situation.

3. Form partnerships with leading tech companies.
Healthcare, like technology, is a deeply specialized industry. As a result, game-changing innovation is best accomplished when leaders from both industries come together and work across disciplines to initiate change.

As exciting as companies like ResearchKit, 23andMe and Calico may seem, imagine what would happen if Apple and Google teamed up with healthcare leaders. Not only would this lead to a powerful exchange of knowledge and the creation of new and exciting companies, but it would help many healthcare companies address a longstanding shortcoming: How to function as a truly customer-centric organization that’s focused less on profits and more on people.

And that’s really what should matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the wellbeing of any healthcare company that’s at stake; it’s the wellbeing of people. So let the disruption begin.

This article was originally published in Target Marketing Magazine.

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