In Part 1, we briefly discussed a few emerging trends in healthcare today that seem to be gathering momentum; including the impact of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). This time, I want to expand on a recently released survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, “Healthcare Consumer Engagement. ”
Let me begin with a brief story. In 2000, as I was beginning the transition from healthcare operations to healthcare technology, while incorporating a company called Internet Healthcare Solutions, (that has, after several reorganizations, become Quantum Innovations, Inc. and PWeR, Inc.), I recall having a conversation with my closest friend and mentor, a respected surgeon, about the internet. I was trying to get him to start a website so he could use it to tell potential patients about himself, display his curriculum vitae, publish his many papers, and have an email address to reach his office, and last, he could place relevant links to the American Medical Society and other respected medical information websites. I was surprised by his answer. He told me he did not want patients to have access to more information. He told me the new “internet, Yahoo and Google” were allowing patients to second guess him, self-diagnose, and many times show up with reams of paper filled with information that he then had to refute or maybe worse (my comment) – confirm an alternate diagnosis or treatment. Wow!
I tried to point out that his lack of website and customer engagement was not going to stop the movement; but he was fixed in his position.
Though the healthcare industry is trying to embrace needed change, and in many cases succeeding, the industry must invest in that engagement quickly and in unexpected ways. Interacting with patients will need to be done not only in person, but online, via mobile, and in real-time. We must accept that the “patient of tomorrow” will be far more enlightened, informed, inquisitive and knowledgeable than we’ve previously had; a patient that may very well challenge us to “defend” our diagnosis/treatment!
We are in an era when our credit card charge is no longer a paper receipt, but rather an alert on our smart phone. How can we be expected to wait hours, days or weeks for lab/test results? How can we expect patients, or ourselves, to tolerate being placed on hold for 20 minutes just to set a doctor’s appointment?
According to the Deloitte survey noted above, the industry has begun to invest in “development of online information resources, mobile applications and personal health devices.” We also note that all this is by design hoping to increase “consumer engagement,” and to help consumers take more control of their personal wellness and make better decisions with more information. In short, to engage the industry using information with control. For someone that went after patents in this space, I feel less in the wilderness of innovation, and more in the time and place for a “Renaissance” in healthcare as we end 2015.
As we come out of the “dark-ages” when information was horded as an asset to be closely guarded and not easily shared, we witness another great trend; the flow of information between providers, payers, and the healthcare consumer. This trend is more evident in certain cities and around mega-integrated health systems in New York City, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and now emerging in Miami. These systems and communities are linking and partnering with hospitals, providers, and are using online resources and leveraging technology to connect and interact with those consumers.
Although I personally have been a critic of the Affordable Care Act and the requirement of how providers were required to meet Meaningful Use (MU-1 and MU-2) of electronic healthcare records, I have recognized that even the reluctant use of technology by both consumer and provider has reached a tipping point. Today, millions of Americans use their computers to shop for private insurance, select providers, and in some cases, contact providers online. On the other side, providers have been forced, first by incentives and then by “penalties,” to adopt new and mostly foreign technology to treat patients and report to the government. Now those forces, started by government, are setting a course that is, I believe, irreversible. I wonder, as providers are mandated to engage electronically with patients, via patient portals, will the trend accelerate? I think it will; I think it will reach escape velocity once we find a way to make EHRs interoperable. This will be a slow trend since there isn’t one EHR Company that controls much more than 10% of the provider market, although the top 15 likely control 80% of the market. There is a huge incentive to circle the wagons and cut off the innovators and the mavericks, and we have seen this occur in other computer technologies before.
I see great promise in connecting the new smart phones to the “everything of healthcare.” I see a Patient [Consumer] Centered system, (my version of PC), where a patient will be the center of the healthcare universe. Where that Consumer will shop for insurance, a provider, schedule appointments, upload their medical information or, better yet, allow (yes allow) the provider(s) to connect to their “master wellness record,” a record that will be owned and controlled by the patient; furthermore the provider(s) will automatically update, so the patients’ medical record is always the “master.” To truly have a patient centered system, the patient will pay for and control their record, and the doctors will be given access to that record. The doctors’ platform essentially becomes a slave to the master record, giving the doctor not only all the information he/she should have from his/her own medical record, but also all the historical, and live information on that patient. At that point, the patient really is in charge. The patient will most assuredly have better care because their provider will be better informed. There’s also an unintended consequence; lower cost and better care. That is the future of a more engaged consumer in healthcare. More on this subject next time in Part 3.
– Noel J. Guillama, President