John Halamka, M.D.

Recommendations for Digital Transformation in Healthcare


Even before 2020, health care stood on the cusp of digital transformation. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated this transition, with the rapid adoption of telemedicine and remote monitoring technologies. The new Administration enters at a rare historical moment, one where technology, policy, and urgent are aligned to catalyze change. This “perfect storm for innovation” will be predicated on harnessing the power of big data and digital capabilities to improve patient care. 

However, realizing these digital possibilities necessitates navigating a fundamental tension; patient data is central to advancing cures and novel care delivery models, yet protecting patient privacy and preserving public trust is critical for success. Non-traditional partnerships between large technology companies, start-ups, and health care organizations are on the rise. These collaborations have the potential to redefine the digital landscape in healthcare, much like Uber did for transportation or Apple for music. Yet such collaborations in medicine require finding ways to use data ethically and respect patient privacy rights. 

As policymakers step into their roles, they need to promote broad dialogue on these elements. They should wrestle with questions such as: 

  • How can we use vast datasets about populations to advance health and reduce disparities, while protecting individual privacy? 
  • What should the modern patient consent form look like to guarantee data is used in the right contexts with appropriate controls? 
  • What does the next generation of de-identification techniques look like, and what policies can advance these sophisticated tools?
  • Which best practices both enable use of patient data to advance medicine but also transparency about financial incentives and business models?

Success on these fronts will require widespread engagement between policymakers and stakeholders across health care, including payers, providers, technology companies, and patient advocates. The new leadership would be wise not only to catalyze this dialogue, but also modernize the approach so we can harness the full potential of digital health to overcome the deficiencies painfully revealed by the pandemic. We stand ready to assist and look forward to partnering with the Administration.