New KPMG research finds that although technology leaders in healthcare face significant challenges, they are determined to keep organizational digital transformation on track. This article explores the research and compares healthcare technology functions and their decision-making with other industries. It also examines how healthcare organizations are using artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber security to reduce staff workloads and build trust with consumers/patients.

Despite the headwinds of global economic uncertainty and significant industry challenges, around the world digital transformation leaders in healthcare are committed to their innovation priorities. By aligning investment in technology with their strategic ambitions, healthcare organizations are realizing value and upholding momentum.

Results from the KPMG 2021 Healthcare CEO Future Pulse (PDF 1.11MB) survey of 200 healthcare leaders around the world shows what the sector has achieved so far. In the survey, 38 percent of healthcare CEOs said their organization used artificial intelligence (AI) to engage with and/or treat patients. And significant proportions reported using remote monitoring (47 percent), wearables (40 percent) and embedded biometric monitoring (35 percent).1 These numbers are expected to rapidly increase in the coming years as adoption of emerging technologies accelerates.

As the sector works to harness the recent rapid evolution of technology, two priorities have emerged: supporting overstretched workforces so healthcare professionals have more time to give to patients, and cultivating experiences that will build consumer trust.

“Technology has been a key driver in the underlying growth of health expenditure around the world,” says Evan Rawstron, Global Co-Lead, KPMG Connected Enterprise for Health, KPMG International, and National Sector Lead for Health, Aging and Human Services at KPMG Australia. “Healthcare organizations have focused investment on technology in areas that improve consumer outcomes, experiences and trust for a long time, but employee and enterprise productivity are increasingly important priorities."

The KPMG global tech report 2023, which is based on a survey of 2,100 executives from 16 countries and nine industries, confirms that these two objectives are strong priorities for healthcare organizations.

In the research, 59 percent of healthcare respondents say that the need to fast-track employee productivity is a common trigger of digital transformation projects. And to maintain stakeholder trust, 59 percent say that consumer expectations of stronger data privacy and cyber security have the strongest influence on digital transformation plans in healthcare. That is 6 and 7 percentage points higher, respectively, than the average across all industries surveyed.

When they are used strategically, digital transformation initiatives can benefit employee productivity and consumer outcomes simultaneously. For instance, front-office improvements and streamlined systems of record will reduce the administrative burden on clinicians. In turn, this reduces wait times for appointments and treatments, which enhances the patient experience and communication. More efficient apps, meanwhile, give a clear view of patient data.

level of influence on digital transformation

The research finds that AI and machine learning (ML) are seen as vital to overcoming healthcare’s productivity challenges. As the sector starts to use these emerging technologies to benefit employees and patients, it is using cyber resilience measures to safeguard stakeholder trust and information security. 

The battle against burnout dictates healthcare’s technology investments

Workforce shortages and funding pressures are pushing many institutions to decrease their costs and increase their productivity. The KPMG 2021 Healthcare CEO Future Pulse survey found, for instance, that the ability to meet demand and to support workforce wellness were among the most pressing workforce issues keeping leaders up at night.2

Many are turning to technology for help. It can streamline processes, relieving healthcare professionals and allowing them to reallocate time to higher-value tasks. In the face of funding pressures, this boost in employee productivity and value generation is highly sought after by healthcare organizations.

Rather than reduce headcount to realize cost benefits, we need to leverage technologies to better meet spiraling demand with the same workforce.

Evan Rawstron
Global Co-Lead, KPMG Connected Enterprise for Health, KPMG International, and
National Sector Lead for Health, Aging and Human Services at KPMG Australia

The sector is racing to capture value from feature-rich, cloud-enabled platforms by investing in systems of record — particularly electronic medical records, enterprise resource planning systems and human-capital management. But in many cases these efforts are being resisted by an overstretched workforce.

Global research from the Partnership for Healthcare System Sustainability and Resilience has found that there is an urgent need to improve the working conditions of healthcare staff. Demanding workloads, poor job security and limited career prospects are leading to low motivation, burnout and attrition of healthcare staff.3 This kind of environment dispels any employee enthusiasm for change initiatives such as system upgrades and new technologies. Unsurprisingly, the new research conducted by KPMG International finds that the healthcare sector is much more likely than others to say that employee resistance influences investment decisions regarding new technology.

The majority of healthcare respondents (75 percent) say that employee resistance influences technology investment decisions (17 percentage points more than the average across all industries surveyed). Aside from limited bandwidth to implement new systems and tech, Rawstron says that healthcare training processes need to empower healthcare professionals to be more efficient. “While many healthcare employees are overstretched,” he says, “I also don’t think we train or resource the workforce effectively to change the way they work to release the time that allows them to focus on higher-value activities.”

That training would also enhance the digital literacy of non-medical staff, suggests Rawstron, which would reduce the change-management burden. This is especially important because technology is improving at a much higher pace than healthcare organizations can adopt it, which creates a continuous need to get the basics in place.

AI and ML are vital to productivity

Of the industries in the new KPMG research, the healthcare sector is one of the most likely to say that AI and ML systems are going to be strategically important over the next three years: 62 percent of healthcare organizations consider AI and ML to be the most important technologies for achieving short-term ambitions — 5 percentage points above the average across all industries surveyed.

AI is here to stay. Healthcare’s main currency is time, and AI can give time back to healthcare professionals. Some in the industry are concerned that, instead of offering relief, productivity gains through technology could add new tasks to workloads, so a key focus of the digital transformation of healthcare is tackling employee burnout.

Many in the industry expect AI and ML to be an important way to unlock employee productivity. Increased employee productivity will be the top success metric healthcare organizations will use to measure the return on investment (ROI) of their AI and ML investments. While other industries are basing AL/ML investment decisions on imitating their leading competitors, in healthcare an evidence-based approach prevails. According to the research, healthcare organizations plan to prioritize AI/ML because of due diligence exercises that evaluate consumer feedback, proven ROI and guidance from third parties.

which technologies will be the most imp

AI/ML investments are already paying off. Of the healthcare respondents surveyed by KPMG, 62 percent have seen improved performance because of AI and automation, and benefits include enhanced consumer engagement and employee satisfaction levels. “AI unlocks value in the way that care is delivered — whether that is through increased inclusivity, translating in real time or through improved tonal accuracy,” says Rawstron. “Tasks that used to take 10 minutes now take one or two. So when it is appropriately deployed it also creates big productivity improvements for a critically scarce workforce.” 

Much of this success can be attributed to data management. “Data maturity helps secure organizational support for investments needed to realize the value of emerging technologies at the scale required to offset the extraordinary workforce shortages,” Rawstron explains.

Post-pandemic, the sector has recognized that it needs to invest in data for emergency planning and response, as well as for population health interventions and new intelligent data platforms to unlock value from complex, fast-moving data streams (e.g., human, environmental and animal health data streams).

As a result, healthcare now ranks highly on data accessibility to support AI systems. Almost half (47 percent) of healthcare executives in the new research say that data accessibility with well-defined processes is fundamental to their business strategy. Only 37 percent of respondents across all industries surveyed are at this maturity stage. And 17 percent of the healthcare executives say they often generate returns from data-accessibility practices.

Cyber security is vital to safeguarding consumer trust

More than in any other sector, healthcare organizations are responsible for storing highly sensitive personal information. This explains why 59 percent of healthcare executives in the KPMG research (7 percentage points more than the average across all industries surveyed) say that consumer expectations of stronger data privacy and cyber security are the most significant direction-setting factors on digital transformation projects.

As healthcare organizations embrace technology as a positive influence on patient outcomes, they will have to put safeguards in place. The mounting cyber threat that can come from cloud, AI, remote working, transient workforces, alternate medical approaches and connected devices calls for a dedicated focus on cyber capabilities.

Generative AI, for example, may have captured the world’s imagination, but new opportunities bring unfamiliar risks. The technology has increased threat vectors and prompted healthcare provider organizations to review their cyber security strategies. Medical registrars, for instance, now commonly use Generative AI to write discharge summaries on their tablets outside of secure networks, exacerbating the risk of attack.

Security gaps also open up when agency staff step in to support an overstretched workforce. To mitigate this and preserve consumer trust, the KPMG research shows that the sector is leaning on cyber security to strengthen tech development plans and ensure patient welfare. Half of the healthcare executives (5 percentage points more than the executives overall) say their tech function will primarily focus on cyber threat detection and management as an innovation goal over the next two years.

Because AI allows organizations to tackle these risks head on, experts such as Rawstron predict a promising future for the technology in healthcare. “There are few technologies that have had the sort of impact that OpenAI has had in recent years,” he says. “It’s only just beginning — but it’ll be transformative.”

Key takeaways

  • Around the world, fast-tracking employee productivity is a common trigger for digital transformation projects in healthcare organizations. Healthcare’s main currency is time, and AI and ML are seen as vital ways to offer relief to healthcare professionals and overcome the sector’s productivity challenges. Better digital literacy for healthcare workers and communities will help organizations to contend with employee resistance to change. It will also help them to manage the risk of health equity gaps being exacerbated by the diffusion of digital technologies.
  • As the industry embraces technology with a focus on improving patient outcomes and experiences, it needs to focus on cyber capabilities in order to respond to mounting cyber threats that come from cloud, AI, remote working, transient workforces, alternate medical approaches and connected devices.
  • Health and care systems around the world are relying on digital transformation to address the onslaught of issues they face. These complex challenges require robust and thoughtful approaches to realize desired value for patients, consumers, providers, staff and health system partners. Digital transformation in healthcare needs to be supported by strong alliances and collaborations across networks and systems: technology is no longer the only answer. Successful transformations require digital leadership, good governance, execution power and a strong focus on adoption.

How KPMG can help

KPMG member firms have deep expertise in business technology. Our award-winning4,5,6,7  transformation, innovation, and profound industry expertise positions KPMG professionals to address market challenges and provide in-depth industry perspectives. We use technology in ways that increase competitive advantage for healthcare organizations such as leveraging the KPMG Connected Enterprise for Health framework, deploying digital health solutions to address concrete issues and employing our strong network of alliances with some of the world’s leading technology, data and services companies. KPMG professionals have the ability to meet organizations where they are at in their transformation journey, whether that is helping them to successfully adopt appropriate solutions, increase innovation and/or embark on broader digital transformation. From increasing efficiency and streamlining care delivery, automating and augmenting workforces and helping to instill foundational systems for insights and processes, KPMG firms can help to address critical healthcare organization needs.

Get in touch to learn more about how KPMG can support transformation in your organization.

1KPMG International. (2021), Healthcare CEO Future Pulse (PDF 1.11MB)


3Partnership for Healthcare System Sustainability and Resilience (2023), Key findings from country reports: Building sustainable and resilient health systems

42023 and 2021 ServiceNow Worldwide Industry Solutions: Healthcare Partner of the Year award

52022 Appian Partner Award: Transformation award (outstanding results in global strategic program delivery)

62022 ServiceNow: Global Transformation Partner of the Year

72021 Workday: Partner Industry Innovation Award, Healthcare (Labor Distribution Enabled by Workday Prism Analytics solution)

Throughout this (film/document/webpage), “we”, “KPMG”, “us” and “our” refers to the global organization or to one or more of the member firms of KPMG International Limited (“KPMG International”), each of which is a separate legal entity.