It’s undeniable we are in the midst of a national discussion about patients taking charge of their health and how health care providers can become more resourceful. There’s a clear call for health care to improve how providers manage their patients, practices and day-to-day medicine. And, there’s a distinct parallel with technology innovations that offer convenience, flexibility, efficiency and engagement with health care providers.
Patients want to be in control of their needs. Patients want to diagnose their illness, manage their condition and select a health care provider based on what’s important to them. To help understand some of the challenges and opportunities facing our clients, here’s a look at the latest technological developments that are changing the way we market health care and gain loyalty from physicians, patients, and providers.
Recently, we discussed why it’s not necessary to complicate the patient experience – it’s a lot like the consumer experience. Patients want access, affordability, and personalized service, so it’s no surprise that smartphones, social media and online retailers are shaping consumer expectations when it comes to their health care experience. From a patient’s perspective, a health care provider’s digital presence is an important part of their experience. In fact, virtual health care visits via phones or apps are becoming increasingly popular – more than one million virtual visits were reported in 2015.
Why? “Telehealth” appeals to patients’ need for convenience, increased access to doctors and it costs less than an in-office visit. It offers on-demand physician video, text and phone consultations, and some insurance providers are already covering telehealth visits in their benefit plans. Talk about challenging the traditional “local” aspect of health care that’s so often associated with providers. That means no more appointments, sitting in waiting rooms, visiting emergency rooms, or driving miles for routine or post-op exams or minor ailments. Doctors can respond when they have available time.
Medici is one brand that introduced a HIPAA-compliant app at SXSW that securely connects patients with their doctor through the use of text, photos and videos to illustrate concerns and questions. More are likely to follow. However, a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, suggests that virtual visits do not reduce spending. For example, it’s estimated that annual spending for respiratory illnesses increased by $45 per telehealth user, compared with patients who did not use virtual consultations and instead visited a provider’s office. The study also shows that telehealth prompts patients to seek care for minor illnesses that otherwise would not have induced them to visit a doctor’s office.
If innovative technology is driving consumer needs, then health care inventions are addressing patient needs, like tackling needle phobia and pain through technological devices, and adopting 3D printing to produce complex and personalized products. Developing new gadgets and tools, and offering advanced medical solutions that make telemedicine more convenient for patients and providers will be critical to enhancing the patient experience. We’ve made predictions on medical device trends in 2017, but here are a few more recent examples that are coming to fruition.
For example, Medtronic and Abbott Laboratories’ St. Jude Medical unit created tiny cardiovascular devices and received positive new data that may lead to more elderly patients becoming eligible to get one of the company’s hot-selling minimally invasive heart valves. Medtronic is also approved to sell an improved implantable heart monitor that wirelessly reads and transmits patient data to detect problems and help pinpoint causes of unexplained fainting and strokes. And, SXSW featured a needle-free autoinjector being tested for delivery of biologics.
Big data in health care has significant potential to predict epidemics, cure disease, improve quality of life and avoid preventable deaths. Some public and private insurers are spending millions of dollars using advanced technology to predict people’s future health care needs based on their interactions with doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, as well as information from sources like social media.
Some providers are making strides. There are seven times as many hospitals today offering patients the ability to view, download, and transmit health information compared to 2012. And, most recently, Mayo Clinic has partnered with BioSig Technologies medical device maker to give heart doctors a more precise view into causes and effective treatments for deadly cardiac problems by providing more-detailed heart data during a procedure.
However, most health care data is unstructured, comprised of doctors’ notes, clinical reports, imaging reports, etc., and big data analytics has a significant role to play in extracting value from existing information, which is often difficult to access and spread out across business silos. While digitization of health care has improved, shifting from paper recordkeeping systems to computers, the industry has not taken full advantage of the technological capabilities.
There is so much more potential for health care providers to collect, share and use data to improve patient care and reduce cost. As these capabilities gain traction and providers work to break down barriers, such as lack of interoperability, difficulty collecting data, time required, multiple applications that are difficult to use, and physician resistance, it will only be a matter of time before big data is playing a larger role in health care.