Digital Health Care Platforms Need a Different Approach to Succeed

PR Newswire
Monday, March 11, 2024 at 12:01pm UTC

Digital Health Care Platforms Need a Different Approach to Succeed

PR Newswire

MIT Sloan Management Review identifies three key areas that must shift

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 11, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- New research released from MIT Sloan Management Review reveals that the general best practices that have proven successful for digital platforms in other business contexts are less useful in the context of health care. "Health Care Platforms Need a Strategy Overhaul" sheds light on how platform strategy must evolve as it is applied to solve new problems in new markets.

Changes in digital strategy in health care sector will contribute to higher-quality, more innovative health services

Over the past four years, researchers Marcus Holgersson, Joakim Björkdahl, Anna Essén, and Johan Frishammar have identified the unique challenges digital health care platforms face.

"Leaders and managers of digital health platforms who focus on leveraging organizational learning effects, systematically integrating with the incumbent ecosystem, and using a distributed mode for ecosystem orchestration will be better positioned to manage, scale, and tailor their operations to targets that are appropriate regionally, nationally, and market-wise," said Holgersson, professor of industrial management and economics at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

"Such changes in digital platform strategy in the health care sector will contribute to higher-quality and more innovative health services globally."

"Health Care Platforms Need a Strategy Overhaul" outlines a three-part approach for making such platforms grow and succeed. To avoid costly mistakes, organizations must shift their mainstream assumptions about platform strategy and make different decisions about key domains to align with a digital health perspective:

  • Market Entry — Unlike platforms such as Airbnb and Amazon, health care platforms are not a substitute but rather a complement to established services. Digital health platforms should focus on a narrow and well-defined scope and integrate with established ecosystems.
  • Scaling the Business — The concept of network effects is central to platform strategy. Having an increased number of users is important for platforms such as Facebook, but for health care platforms, learning from and leveraging data from users will improve adoption and retention. Digital health platforms should use data to develop operational excellence and for business model development.
  • Ecosystem Governance — Organizations such as Apple centralize orchestration among their ecosystem of apps and developers, but health care platforms must function under distributed orchestration among physicians, health care organizations, governments, insurance companies, and more. Digital health platforms should build sociopolitical legitimacy and proactively participate in regulatory development.

"Digital health care platforms, if done right and implemented well, can be a large step in solving the productivity crisis in health care," concludes Frishammar, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Luleå University of Technology in Sweden. "There is still much to be explored in what these platforms can do and should do, but ultimately they can make health care more accessible, more affordable, and more improved."

The Research
From 2018 through 2022, the authors studied digital health platforms in Sweden, focusing on platform strategy, ecosystem management, and user behavior. They conducted 108 interviews in 14 organizations — four major digital primary care platforms, two platform technology developers, five established public and private health care providers, two health care agencies, and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions — and with individual users of digital health platforms.

The work also included quantitative analyses of user behavior on two digital health platforms, with a sample size of 165,300 observations. Statistical data was also analyzed from nearly 2.3 million digital consultations conducted in the Swedish health care settings. The authors also studied more than 200 policy documents and conducted observations at 15 workshops with participants from a wide variety of health care settings and services. Among them were platform providers, health care providers, users (both patients and medical professionals), and wider ecosystem actors (regulators, public health care actors, and IT providers).

The MIT Sloan Management Review article "Health Care Platforms Need a Strategy Overhaul" publishes at 8 a.m. ET on March 11, 2024.

About the Authors
Marcus Holgersson is a professor of industrial management and economics at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Joakim Björkdahl is a professor of strategic management and innovation at Chalmers University of Technology. Anna Essén is an associate professor at the House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics. Johan Frishammar is a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Luleå University of Technology in Sweden.

About MIT Sloan Management Review
MIT Sloan Management Review is an independent, research-based magazine and digital platform for business leaders published at the MIT Sloan School of Management. MIT SMR explores how leadership and management are transforming in a disruptive world. We help thoughtful leaders capture the exciting opportunities — and face down the challenges — created as technological, societal, and environmental forces reshape how organizations operate, compete, and create value.

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