Close up of hand touching smartwatch with health app on the screen, gadget for fitness active lifestyle.

Chapter 2 | Digital technology reinvigorates public health

In the coming years, respondents will focus on increasing access to public health programs, health education and awareness, the adoption of healthier behaviors and the delivery of better outcomes for underserved populations. More striking, however, is their emphasis on initiatives that relate to data and digital transformation.

First on our respondents’ list of priorities, cited by 77%, is data and data strategy, while upgrading technology platforms is in third place (69%). There is a pattern here: 52% of respondents tell us that advances in data and digital technology make them more optimistic now about what they can achieve in public health than at any other point in their career. This is more than three times the proportion who disagree.

Figure 3. Data strategy is the top priority for public health teams

Digital brings efficiency, precision and trust

Respondents to our survey are hopeful that technology will help them address their existing and emerging weaknesses.

Part of this is about efficiency and enhancing processes. About two-thirds say they are making digitalization a priority (65%) and are satisfied with the progress they have made in automating routine processes (66%).

Digital technology can also help public health organizations become more precise. Muin Khoury, Founding Director of the CDC’s Office of Genomics and Precision Public Health, explains that data and analytics can “contribute to precision public health by improving public health surveillance and assessment, and efforts to promote uptake of evidence-based interventions, by including more extensive information related to place, person and time.”3

Respondents are striving to get hold of the information they need to carry out this kind of analysis: 70% are somewhat or very satisfied with improved data-sharing with external organizations in the past year, and 64% say they are getting better at obtaining population-wide surveillance data.

Analyzing this data will give them evidence to show which interventions work. This will enable officials to focus on the most cost-effective activities and understand where these are needed most urgently — leading to broader improvements in operations. At the same time, data will be crucial in reassuring communities about the need for specific interventions.

One indication of the advantages afforded by digital transformation, and the advanced analytics it enables, is our finding that the organizations pursuing the most radical transformation are also the ones that are driving the most improvement in other core areas of public health. Seven in 10 of this group, on average, are putting a high priority on preventative health, health education and increasing access, which compares with an average of 18% among those pursuing ad hoc transformation plans.

Figure 4. The organizations that are pursuing radical digital transformation are most likely to be prioritizing ambitious public health objectives

Download the full EY Public Health Industry Survey

Belinda minta Circle

Belinda Minta
EY US Public Health Services Transformation Leader
MPH and MBA; collaborating with clients to transform and help optimize public health services; a public health professional; focuses on working with clients to Prevent. Promote. Protect.