Why is the Healthcare Industry Slow to Adopt Technology?

June 8, 2022
Catherine Kucharski

Why the Healthcare Industry is Slow to Adopt  Technology

Let’s face facts, the healthcare industry is slow to adopt technology, but why?  

Technological advances are valuable assets to healthcare, they increase efficiency, and save time and money. But multiple factors pose a threat to those advances becoming less of a pipedream and more of a reality. 

The healthcare industry is an intricate system dependent on multiple cogs in the machine. Our society is dependent on being able to have access to doctors and medical attention.  Our healthcare system must be adaptable to society’s ever-changing needs. Being part of a large organization, especially one with such an important function poses issues on flexibility to change. As the needs of those seeking healthcare and the way society operates waxes and wanes; the healthcare industry must follow those trends. While it’s important to adapt to new technologies as they come it isn’t always a healthcare industry standard. 

Reasons healthcare is slow to adopt technology

  • Compliance
  • Lack of Focus
  • Resistance to Change
  •  Process Lag


Compliance is a massive hurdle within the industry; there are standards for introducing new technologies. Legal, professional, and ethical compliance is essential for the industry, but are inhibitors to new technologies. The rules can feel like jumping through multiple hoops, and did I mention the hoops are on fire?   

While new technologies could be a hospital’s saving grace, the idea must be introduced and passed through multiple departments before getting the green light. The process could take months, or even years, before innovation lands on the right desk. If you factor in the technologies that must be presented, pitched, and demoed for multiple people representing various departments, the timeline grows. After the technology is explained, analyzed, and approved then the budget and costs must be haggled over. See how it turns into a conundrum?  

Have you ever tried to call a customer service phone number for assistance? You spend ten minutes talking to the first phone jockey before being put in an endless game of transferring departments and elevator hold music. By the time you finally get to the correct department you’ve been on hold for 25 minutes. 

It’s a similar process to get innovation through to hospitals. It’s a long game of phone tag and email tag. 

Lack of Focus 

Another complication that leads to slower adoption of new technologies in health care is the lack of focus. While innovation would be nice, it would also be nice to be stagnant. If hospitals keep using old methods that work but have room for improvement, why would they change? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But what that boils down to is the acceptance of good enough. The healthcare of our society shouldn’t aim for ‘good enough. And that’s where these new technologies come in and shift, ‘good enough, into ‘wow I wish we changed that sooner’

There is a perfected science in the healthcare industry; everything is premeditated and repetitive. This is why it’s so hard to enact change. The National Healthcare System of England explores the idea seen within their healthcare system, ‘accepting failure as part of the innovation process’. Meaning, nothing bad comes from continuing to follow the same procedures and policies. But if you try something new and fail the repercussions are detrimental and would tarnish a hospital’s reputation. There is safety in familiarity and if the new technologies fail, it leads to reprehensible damages. Defaulting to old technologies as risk mitigation is an old crutch. It’s not conducive to growth and promotes the resistance to adoption of new technologies and innovations. 

Resistance to Change 

People and industries are historically resistant to change. Change is hard, but change is good. There is a big belief that contemporary technology in healthcare translates to a robot doctor performing surgery and a kiosk machine that spits out pills in the hospital hallway for patients to replace nurses. While that is an overly dramatic example, there is some truth to it. People are hesitant to change because they are worried there will be a risk of depersonalization of their care and their data. But on the contrary, digital innovation would improve the patient experience.

Process Lag 

The major roadblock that causes the healthcare industry to be slow to adopt technologies is because the healthcare offered to patients is so dynamic and solutions need to come quickly. As described earlier, getting new technologies and innovations to be used in healthcare organizations and hospitals isn’t easy by any means. Many times, there is too much of a lag between the new technologies being created and being implemented in hospitals. New technologies are rendered pointless because the next big thing is already there. This unfortunately leads to healthcare missing out on crucial advancements that are efficient and effective. 


Patient privacy and HIPAA are huge proponents of how the healthcare industry adopts technologies and are at fault for their lagging abilities. Hospitals are gatekeepers of thousands of highly sensitive forms, files, billing, and employee information. Most health organizations won’t look twice at software that doesn’t protect patient data. The use of HIPAA throughout the industry makes it harder to adopt because the information needs to be kept confidential. Possible new technologies have the potential for bugs or glitches that could leave hospitals vulnerable to being hacked. In 2009, The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) was passed which ‘expanded the scope of privacy and security protections available under HIPAA compliance by increasing the potential legal liability for non-compliance and it providing for more stringent enforcement’. Between the HITECH Act and procedural HIPAA steps, the data compliance rules and regulations for the healthcare industry are massive barriers to new technologies. 

Current Methods in Healthcare for Introducing New Technology

Currently, the healthcare system introduces technology in the healthcare system through internal committees. Most of these committees are made up of members who have a medical background and years of experience in the healthcare industry.  Forming these teams internally, members have a unique perspective leveraging their experience. As hospitals begin to push towards innovation, there has been an influx of roles such as chief innovations officer, transformations officer, chief digital strategy, and business development officer. While these committees have been around for years, their presence has evolved to be more hands-on. Especially during the pandemic, these committees had a stronger presence than prior. The pandemic ran hospitals and healthcare organizations through the wringer as fast-produced innovations were required to counter the virus and its impacts. 

These committees focus on specific tasks that target a set of problems. However, these internal committees still face many of the challenges talked about above. It’s always harder to make big changes from the perspective of a large corporation or organization. The committees still have to deal with all the procedural red tape that typically hinders the advancement of technologies. In some cases, these committees are considered ‘innovation theater’, when large organizations create these initiatives just to check boxes.  Meaning these teams are just for show and don’t create concrete solutions or impact. A common thread seen within the innovation theaters is there is an unbalance in where time and resources should be allocated. The theaters focus more so on the process, failing to acknowledge the product, which is what matters. 

The other way technologies are pushed in the healthcare industry is through innovation firms. These firms outsource the brain power to create innovations. Outsourcing to innovation firms removes the implications and bureaucracies without losing strategic focus on innovation. This allows hospitals to move quickly. These innovation labs or firms are cornerstones for new technologies in healthcare. The main issue with these firms is a potential lack of alignment, but this can be countered by choosing firms with a strong entrepreneurship mindset.

The Joint Efforts of Innovation Teams and Internal Committees To Speed Up Adoption

 The implementation of innovation teams in combination with internal committees will speed up the adoption of new technologies in healthcare. Innovation firms enable committees to adopt new technologies and do so more efficiently.  

Global consultant on innovation, entrepreneurship & gender equality, Talal Rafi explores three ways to fast-track innovation in healthcare: 

  1. Innovation leadership 
  2. Innovation culture 
  3. Strategic partners 

Innovation leadership is a key figurehead in healthcare innovations. It preaches the idea that a hospital board needs to be filled with leadership that is invested in seeing changes. Leadership should protect and nurtures its vision. To push new technologies at a faster rate, leadership needs to focus on strategy. The decision-makers in the healthcare industry need to be invested and pragmatic about their approaches.  This strategy is most effective with top-down support. 

The second way is to shift the culture to favor innovation. The culture of an environment dictates how certain ideas and thoughts are received, processed, and executed. If a culture takes a colder approach to innovation ideas won’t feel as accepted and voices won’t be heard. As already explored, healthcare organizations and hospitals have a plethora of departments filled with many employees who have diverse jobs, and everyone’s daily tasks look different. Someone who works in billing has a completely different job than someone who’s scrubbing up for surgery. Each one of those employees potentially could have a great innovation just waiting to be heard and implemented. Collaboration is a key to innovation and creating a place welcoming that collaboration could be beneficial.

Strategic partners are driving forces of faster innovation. They streamline the adoption of technologies most efficiently. These partnerships have a symbiotic relationship with healthcare organizations and take the pressure off hospital leaders who have to allocate their time elsewhere.  Healthcare startups and universities are excellent contenders for partnerships. These partnerships start small and break out to businesses that have experience with entrepreneurial teams who put in the work for hospitals and healthcare organizations. 

These strategic partnerships form in various ways and are vital assets to the healthcare industry. Investing in a strategic partner makes a fundamental difference in how quickly innovations are adopted. Strategic partnerships remove some of the red tape surrounding procedures healthcare organizations must follow that manipulate the timelines of innovation. By working with a partner, hospitals or healthcare organizations take a step back and allow the partners to take the reins on projects. Since these partnerships are more focused on innovation and it’s a significantly faster creation of the technologies. They’re able to be nimble and work quickly. Strategic partners collect and manage ideas, validate them against a market and build the digital project out of a single idea. The partnerships are formed differently, some are built from the ground up, all starting with a really good idea that can propel the relationship. 

An example of a strategic partner working with an outsourced innovation team

RE-Assist is an excellent example of a strategic partner to a hospital network in Ohio. The app is for referral management which eases the transition of care for patients. This type of innovation is possible by strategic partners. RE-Assist started in February of 2022 and within the past year went from discovery to deployment. This timeline was achieved by using a strategic partner and would not have been achieved if done through a larger corporation. RE-Assist worked with WynHouse, an NW Ohio innovation firm, to enable a relationship with hospital networks. The transition went from ideation to forming business plans and executing the innovation. WynHouse was a pinnacle part of transitioning RE-Assist from idea to strategic partner for hospitals and aiding in the faster adoption of technologies in the healthcare industry. 

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