Lab Notes

Healthcare Organizations, It is Time to Wake Up

Mobile technologies and connected devices (IoT) are redefining everyday experiences. Monitoring our homes in real time, adjusting thermostats to save energy while away on vacation, answering the doorbell remotely, keeping up with breaking news and information anywhere at anytime and accessing bank and financial accounts whenever and wherever – all at the touch of a button (or by voice command if you prefer).

Today, over two-thirds of all adults in the United States walk around with a super computer in their pocket, many of which have the capacity to track physical activity, caloric balance, heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, sleep patterns and more. This is the world we now live in.

Today’s healthcare entrepreneurs have a major advantage beyond their ability to rapidly use technology to meet consumer needs – they are not constrained by the current healthcare culture and system.

Technology has created a more connected, on-demand society by defining a consumer need and bringing the solution directly to the problem. Such technologies and the companies that market them create consumer value, defined as experiences and outcomes that matter to consumers. These technological changes are rapidly revolutionizing nearly every industry, but not healthcare, at least not yet.

Embracing The Evolution of Your Competition

Now replace the word consumer with patient. This is the paradigm shift that is beginning to and will inevitably transform the entire healthcare industry into a system that provides more accessible, affordable healthcare measured by experiences and outcomes that matter to patients.

No longer are traditional healthcare providers competing only with each other. They must now evolve the way they do business and more importantly, connect with their patients in new ways to compete with technologically savvy startups and brands. These new competitors are redefining the space and shifting consumer expectations to a place that the healthcare industry has historically struggled to go. Today’s healthcare entrepreneurs have a major advantage beyond their ability to rapidly use technology to meet consumer needs – they are not constrained by the current healthcare culture and system. The healthcare industry will need to let go and acquire/develop new skills and capabilities to create the future or it will become part of history.

Given that patient outcomes are the new metric for healthcare system success, it stands to reason that patient experience will be a major driver of these outcomes.

Technological disruption is an inevitable part of an industry lifecycle. The healthcare industry can choose to disrupt itself or it will be disrupted by a new wave of competitors that better understand the consumer. Given that patient outcomes are the new metric for healthcare system success, it stands to reason that patient experience will be a major driver of these outcomes. Those that fail to recognize the importance of the consumer-patient as their key partner and adapt will quickly find themselves becoming irrelevant.

There are several key areas in which the healthcare industry must innovate in meeting consumer expectations, or be left behind.

1. Use technology to facilitate and scale patient-provider partnerships

Patients currently spend 20 minutes or less with their doctor during an average office visit. Since the majority of a patient’s health happens outside the doctor’s office, the patient-provider partnership must provide new ways of delivering healthcare and supporting the patient outside the office. Patients who have difficulty understanding their medical regimen, navigating their insurance benefits or implementing lifestyle changes are less likely to achieve successful outcomes compared to patients that receive care coordination outside of the clinical setting.

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Technology can be used to facilitate and scale the communication between healthcare providers and their patients in a way that overcomes the limitations and capacity of the existing system. San Francisco based startup Healthloop, uses technology to create automated feedback loops that improve patient communication and engagement without requiring additional physician time. This enables the clinical team to identify which patients need further follow-up and support to achieve the desired outcomes.

By extending the boundaries of traditional healthcare, this approach begins to integrate health and healthcare into the patient’s daily life.

2. Move beyond information to personalized knowledge and action

Walk into any medical office or hospital waiting room and you will likely see an endless wall of pamphlets, each filled with an overwhelming amount of medical information, all true, but not necessarily relevant. Unfortunately, the healthcare system has been relatively ineffective in delivering the right information to the right patient at the right time, and many healthcare providers have ceased to be the primary source of medical information for many consumers. The trusted physician as a source of medical wisdom has been replaced by websites and mobile apps.

Consumers now turn to nutrition apps such as Rise, which provides users with their own personal nutritionist. HealthTap allows consumers to type a healthcare related question into Facebook Messenger at any time and receive answers from medical specialists, free of charge (without receiving the traditional billing invoice in the mail). Fitness apps such as MammothHunters customize workouts and meal plans based on personal preferences and provide individual feedback with live coaches.

3. Make the Cost of Healthcare Transparent

In just about every aspect of our lives, the marketplace is relatively transparent. We know the costs of goods or services and can evaluate the value proposition and comparative shop before we buy. But when was the last time you had a conversation about the cost of a specific procedure and what the out of pocket costs would be? Healthcare costs usually come in after the fact and are usually accompanied with surprise that it cost more than expected and frustration that insurance did not cover expected costs. With the rise of higher deductible health insurance plans and more out of pocket costs, this is changing.

Online retailers such as Amazon, take transparency one step further and provide not only the cost if purchased through Amazon, but also the cost from competitors, which in some cases may be lower. The approach employed by Amazon to make pricing more transparent has improved the consumer experience and resulted in greater customer loyalty.

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The healthcare industry could improve the patient experience by following Amazon’s lead, by helping patients understand the relative cost and value of healthcare. One company that is doing precisely that is San Francisco based, Amino, which offers a direct to consumer online tool for comparing both cost and quality measures, including feedback from patient experience for a wide range of procedures and treatments. This could create a paradigm shift in pricing transparency by enabling comparison shopping for healthcare.

The Transformation is Already Beginning

No doubt, the healthcare industry has its challenges as it works to better understand and use nontraditional technologies to create and market new offerings modeled after consumer brands. Government regulations, privacy issues, cost concerns and, most importantly, the deeply entrenched healthcare culture and system all create barriers that must be overcome to succeed.

Healthcare transformation is well underway. Make no mistake about it, the industry has two choices – innovate or be disrupted by innovation. The healthcare industry will be transformed into a value based, outcome driven system within the next decade by using technology strategically, in a way that puts the patient, patient experience, and patient outcomes above everything else. And when it comes to healthcare, that’s all that matters.

Adam Dole is a former Presidential Innovation Fellow and was previously an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Mayo Clinic and Vice President of Strategy for Better, a direct to consumer care coordination healthcare start-up. He joined GoKart Labs to accelerate the redesign of healthcare by collaborating with patients, healthcare providers/payers, academic institutions, employers, entrepreneurs and government policy makers.

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