Consumers are putting their foot on the accelerator, driving healthcare companies to implement systems and technology that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. However, it’s not enough for health care organizations to have price transparency, mobile patient portals, or automated scheduling.
Retailers are shifting the industry
Retailers like Amazon and Walmart are upping the ante, bringing healthcare to the masses and increasing access in the process. So what do consumers think about today’s healthcare technologies? Do they feel more informed and able to make better healthcare decisions?
In the webinar, “The Future of Healthcare is Beyond the Digital Front Door: It’s Time to Rethink Consumerism” with guests Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting, Kristen Valdes, founder and CEO of b.well Connected Health and Imran Qureshi, CIO of b.well Connected Health, an overwhelming number of participants answered “no.”
The “shoppable” healthcare consumer experience
The healthcare industry is about two to three years away from introducing tools and technology to create transformational change, said Valdes. There have been a number of sweeping regulatory changes to make the healthcare industry ready for the “shoppable” healthcare consumer experience allowing consumers to grant third-party applications permission to help them collect and aggregate health information.
“I think what’s happening is big tech and retail realize that they’ve built successful companies on the backbone of being consumer-led organizations, and that there’s a real opportunity in healthcare to achieve loyalty, by giving consumers what they’re looking for, which is access and transparency to all their health information, personalized communications and then simple navigation for accessing care for themselves and their families,” said Valdes.
To validate her perspective Valdes quoted the 2022 Health Care Insights Study from CVS, which found that 85% of consumers want their health history and record to be digitized and that access to that information is important when choosing a primary care provider.
Unlocking the Digital Front Door
Health systems have invested in “digital front doors” like patient portals that provide consumers with a way to access electronic health records, email providers and make appointments online. Despite trying to create a more patient-friendly, centralized information hub, patients aren’t using the portals.
“Consumers want personalized, affordable and convenient care, but patient portals today, they just offer users a subset of the data that exists in the electronic medical record,” said Qureshi. “And that’s why 90% of providers offer a patient portal today, but really only a quarter of their patients are actually using them.”
The proliferation of portals, what Valdes calls “portalitis,” forces people to log into various places to get their lab results, medication information, insurance claims and contacts for family providers. Consumers want a truly digital experience and 28% have switched or stopped going to a provider because of a poor digital experience, said Qureshi.
Valdes said that it’s estimated that one person’s data is now in as many as 78 different locations creating a lack of a comprehensive consumer health record. We must start to anticipate a consumer’s needs, not just react to them and assume they will continue coming to us.
“I think that’s where a good entry point for healthcare and retail, or tech and retail companies can come in because they’re really good at anticipating and offering new, value-based benefits, and reasons to come in, and draw people into their organization from a convenience standpoint,” Valdes said.
It goes beyond drawing people in when they’re sick, they want access to personalized wellness and prevention tools. “When we think about what consumers really want, it boils down to two high-level things: be there when I need you and tell me when there’s something I need to do,” said Valdes.
Translating data that was never meant to be consumed by the average person isn’t so easy. Health data is not user-friendly and was meant to be used for billing purposes, documentation and audit and between physicians. The next step forward is defragmenting healthcare by applying an individual’s preferences to their data. This requires enhanced identity management capabilities to account for privacy and security to comply with HIPAA and various other regulations, said Qureshi.
“As a consumer, what I really care about is ‘how can I and my family be healthier, and how can I save out-of-pocket costs on my healthcare?’ And translating healthcare data into those personalized insights so it’s based on individual preferences and provided in a convenient manner is what b.well is all about .”
A technology and cultural shift
Digital transformation must begin with a strategy and a roadmap designed with the patient population and personas that healthcare organizations are trying to serve, said Padmanabhan. There are a hundred different things that can be implemented, but you must pick the five that are most important.
“We tell people all the time that digital transformation is as much a cultural shift as a technology shift,” said Valdes. “Because we’re effectively telling an entire industry that’s operated in a certain manner for many decades to, for the first time, change the way that they do business and to think differently about how to manage everything from scheduling to interactions to automation of post-discharge, pre-visit forms, and how all these things work together.”
Once they begin to think differently, it’s time for organizations to change their mindset about how they use data to achieve objectives. Rather than use data to validate success at the culmination of a project, health care organizations must begin measuring impact right out of the gate or as Valdes said, move it from “being the caboose in the train to being the engine.”
Moving in an agile format, understanding the tracking and traceability of data will make healthcare organizations a lot more competitive with big tech entrants and give consumers what they want. Convenience.