COVID-19 accelerating transformation in healthcare globally, but workforce challenges and digital innovation implementation hindering CEO ambitions

200 health leaders share their views on transformation of the sector for the first-ever KPMG Healthcare CEO Future Pulse


  • 97 percent say COVID-19 has significantly accelerated the change agenda
  • 79 percent believe that, within the next three years, all aspects of care delivery models will be transformed
  • 84 percent believe transformation won’t happen without real change, including reforming the way care providers are incentivized


The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating transformation in healthcare systems across the globe, but obstacles including workforce stability, provider incentivization and innovation barriers could slow progress, according to 200 healthcare leaders from around the world.

Chief Executives from some of the world’s leading public and private healthcare providers in eight geographies were interviewed for KPMG’s first ever Global Healthcare CEO Future Pulse. The report’s breadth and scale offers insights into how healthcare leaders overseeing hospitals, health systems and care provider networks, are preparing for the future.

Healthcare providers have been on the frontlines of international efforts to tackle the pandemic. Now, as many jurisdictions plan and transition to post-COVID recovery, the healthcare sector itself is preparing for longer-term transformation. While more than half of CEOs (62 percent) were already undertaking substantial change prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has significantly accelerated the change agendas of 97 percent of respondents.

The vast majority (79 percent) of CEOs interviewed believe that, within the next three years, all aspects of care delivery models will be transformed, but the sector faces significant obstacles and challenges ahead.

Ability to meet demand, the impact of new operating models on staff, supporting wellness and recruiting new talent were the biggest workforce concerns leaders reported, as the sector readies itself for significant future reform and change.

Sixty-five percent of CEOs identify the risks associated with technological change as their top barrier to innovation, while roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of executives acknowledge the need to focus more acutely on talent and resources, and 84 percent believe transformation won’t happen without more systemic change such as reforming the way care providers are incentivized.

The vast majority of CEOs agree the traditional care delivery ecosystem is evolving, with 70 percent expecting hospitals themselves to evolve into ‘healthcare hubs’, focused on specialty care and 63 percent believe it’s important to shift the delivery of care into more community settings.


Commenting on the findings, Dr. Anna van Poucke, KPMG’s Global Head of Healthcare, said:


“The last year and a half has been a huge challenge for healthcare globally, but COVID-19 has also demonstrated the vital a role the sector plays in the functioning and overall success of society. Before the pandemic, transformation was on the minds of many health leaders, but it was often mired by bureaucracy, gathering stakeholders support, and prolonged planning. The crisis has acted as an accelerant, with CEOs now bracing for imminent and necessary change. Crucially, 80 percent shared  they believe the industry is in need of disruption and change. KPMG is describing this moment as ‘from dreams to reality’ as we’re at a critical point in time where leadership understands massive transformation lies ahead but acknowledges that some underlying challenges facing the sector could slow progress – from technological barriers to talent and resource issues.

“The industry demonstrated its resilience and adaptability throughout the pandemic. Now, the complex challenges faced by healthcare organizations will require holistic, forward-looking, and flexible leadership. Healthcare leaders should also reflect on the coming years of transformation and how well their individual plans reconcile with this. To own the future, engaging, incentivizing and empowering their teams and communities will be key.”