I had the good fortune of attending Digital Rochester’s event where IT leaders gathered to discuss Consumer Engagement in Healthcare. The event was co-sponsored by HIMSS NYS Chapter and brought together 3 great speakers to address the topic:
Michael B. Jackson, GM, Consumer Health Care, Intel Corporation
Rajesh Kutty, Founder and CEO at iVEDiX
How long will consumer health be a thing?
Michael Jackson of Intel led off with this intriguing question. He said that color TV was a
thing…. and then it was just TV. I’ve heard this question around terms like mHealth and Digital Health as well. I agree with Jackson that while these things seem new today, it won’t be long before they’re just… health. When we get sick, we’ll grab the iPad for a quick telemedicine session, get our prescription sent to the pharmacy and be alerted when its ready via a mobile app notification on our phone. All of these systems will be connected and the physician’s EMR will know when we’ve picked up the prescription. This won’t be a thing to us… it’ll just be the normal and expected way to get care.
So how will we get there? Jackson pointed out that Digital Health is much like Digital Marketing only with higher stakes. The 5 steps to loyalty ring true here:
- Learn – We must become educated consumers. What’s available? What’s the best approach to get care in this situation? Etc.
- Validation: We’ll decide which care to consume just like we pick NetFlix videos… we’ll check the online rating. How many stars did this physician get from patients like me?
- Conversion: This is where we decide to become a customer (or patient).
- Use the service: This is the actual delivery of healthcare
- Commit: Loyalty to a brand. You won’t shop around (as much) for your next episode of care. You won’t hit the exchanges in the next open enrollment. They’ve earned your trust and your loyalty.
The need has always been there, but according to Jackson “it’s the empowerment that’s changed”. This empowerment is being driven by major shifts in the healthcare landscape:
- The Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) put 10 Million newly insured patients into the system.
- 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day in the U.S..
- Steadily rising healthcare costs
- Not enough new providers are being trained to meet the increased demand for services (Assoc. of American Medical Colleges suggest a shortage of up to 45,000 PCPs by 2020).
These pressures have paved the way for major payment reform. Healthcare is rapidly moving away from a Fee for Service model (buying services) to a value-based model (buying outcomes). To support this, providers must be able to quantify the value of the services they provide.
Turning to Technology
This isn’t just slapping EMRs in place, but rather a thoughtful approach that engages patients up-front, implements efficiencies on the back-end and constantly measures our effectiveness on actual patient outcomes and costs.
Jackson walked us through the evolution from eHealth (EMRs and digitization) to Open Health (data is shared) to Smart Health (personalized). Our success depends on how we handle the data. It can’t be a deluge of mostly irrelevant information, but rather a mapping of the data to content that is relevant to the audience. A patient needs to see things that are meaningful and actionable TO THEM, while a PCP needs another set of content and an Oncologist another set altogether.
Marry data to relevant and personalized content to get the response you want.
Data you can feel!
Rajesh Kutty of iVEDiX picked up where Jackson left off and focused on the final delivery of that personalized content. Kutty cited estimates that there will be 13 billion mobile devices in the world-wide market by 2020. Increasingly, mobile is THE platform you’ll reach your consumers. These devices provide a small form factor to work with which really emphasizes the need to make your point quickly and with little noise. Kutty made another point about these devices that I’d never considered… “touch invokes a subtle connection with our data that we’ve never felt before”. Your consumers will literally touch your content as they view it on a phone or tablet… it’d better “feel” good.
This concepts of touch and personalization may be more relevant to healthcare than any other field. There are more customer touches to the healthcare system than most other businesses. The services provided are often the most important we’ll ever receive and the emotions we bring to the table both as patients and providers can’t be ignored. We can’t design interfaces that users hate (and as Kutty pointed out… most doctors hate their EMR). The content and the interface need to push redundant, irrelevant or otherwise in-actionable data out of sight and focus on the exceptions. What matters right here and right now from MY perspective in THIS situation? Deliver it to me in 3-5 data points with just a handful of variables. And for God’s sake… make it feel good.
Health Insurance is Consumer Facing Too…
Michael Gurowski of U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group rounded out the discussion with a presentation on consumer options in Health Insurance. It was immediately clear that this was the topic that hit closest to home with the audience as the questions, which were somewhat sparse for the first two speakers, came rolling in to Gurowski. Health Insurance is, in a lot of ways, the most relevant topic in a talk on consumer health. That’s because its the piece we’re closest to understanding today. We know how much comes out of our pay checks and with the ubiquity of High Deductible plans, we know that most of our care will still come out of pocket. Generally speaking, we don’t like this. That said, its not really the insurance we don’t like, but rather the sky-rocketing costs of healthcare combined with little transparency to help us understand what’s going on.
Gurowski did a great job of explaining some of the products that payers are putting in place to help consumers make the best of our bad situation. While the High-deductible plans do put more out-of-pocket burden on us, they do so in order to keep our premiums down in a ridiculously expensive healthcare system. It’s now our choice how we want to spend the “savings” and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) give us a tax free way to sock it away for a rainy healthcare day. Gurowski also cited the growing trend of tools to compare costs and give patients transparency ahead of picking a provider or procedure. Telemedicine options are popping up as well and providing us with a way to save money and time for the most common services and we can do it from anywhere, 24x7x365. Further, wellness programs are coming online that incentivize healthy behavior and try to keep us from needing services in the first place.
Where do we go from here?
Massive change is happening in healthcare today and it’s creating a tremendous amount of strain on providers, payers and patients alike. As consumers, we most directly feel the pain in our pocket books and that’s driving us to ask more questions and expect more from the system that handles the most important purchases we’ll ever make. This, as we are seeing now, will lead to innovation in the products offered by the payers. But as I stated above, this is just making the best of a really bad situation and won’t solve the underlying problem. We need “Smart Health” and we will only get there by engaging patients and providers alike in a meaningful and actionable way.
The event was organized by Travis Masonis – CIO and VP of IT at Jewish Senior Life and Leader of Digital Rochester IT Leaders Special Interest Group
The panel was moderated by John Schrenker – Program Director, Roberts Wesleyan College – WNY Liaison for HIMSS New York State Chapter
And one fun note about iVEDiX… they’re a silo-busting, mobile device data delivering company who’s offices are in a silo… literally. Fantastic!