Digitalization citations within the filings of companies in the healthcare sector fell 37% between the second and third quarters of 2021. But in total, the frequency of sentences related to digitalization between October 2020 and September 2021 was 1628% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, from which our data for this article was taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on digitalization and how important the issue is considered within the healthcare sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning digitalization more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company’s ventures into digitalization have been successes or failures.

When healthcare companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Digitalization is one of these topics; companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether digitalization is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of healthcare companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned digitalization at least once in filings during the past twelve months: this was 79% compared to 35% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to digitalization.

Of the 20 biggest employers in the healthcare sector, Netcare Ltd was the company which referred to digitalization the most between October 2020 and September 2021. GlobalData identified 76 digitalization-related sentences in the South Africa-based company's filings: 1.9% of all sentences. Korian SA mentioned digitalization the second most; the issue was referred to in 1.8% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high digitalization mentions included Fresenius SE & CO KGaA, Mediclinic International Plc and Bangkok Dusit Medical Services PCL.

Across all healthcare companies the filing published in the third quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on digitalization came from 1Life Healthcare Inc. Of the document's 1,144 sentences, 16 (1.4%) referred to digitalization.

In the last quarter, healthcare companies based in Western Europe were most likely to mention digitalization with 1.56% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in the United States mentioned digitalization in just 0.15% of sentences.