Patient engagement is central to improving their health outcomes and reducing the cost of care. This notion is getting validated every day in a variety of ways. Yet, in the last 5 years, I‘ve visited my primary care provider (PCP) for a total of around 2½ hours. And in that time, I don’t believe I’ve seen his face for more than a total of 10 minutes because his face is buried in a laptop.
Think about your own last visit to your doctor. I bet it looked something like this:
- You sat in the waiting area for 10-15 minutes and completed the same standard health information and insurance forms you’re asked to complete before every visit.
- You were then escorted to a patient room by a nurse who took your temperature, blood pressure, and other vitals.
- When your physician finally arrived, he/she looked at you for 30 seconds and then turned away and spent the rest of the time looking at his/her laptop or tablet.
- A month or so later, you received a bill from your health insurance provider with little to no explanation of your out of pocket costs, and the bill was likely higher than you anticipated.
Am I close? This is the all too familiar current healthcare experience in our country. Moreover, a recent Xerox survey1 found galaxy-wide gaps between consumers and healthcare professionals. Take a look at some of the results:
I have two main takeaways regarding the disconnects between healthcare stakeholders.
1. The divide is unsustainable
The gap is frustrating to patients, who feel like the healthcare system just isn’t working for them. And, it will equally harm providers if they don’t understand the patients they serve. Patient loyalty is a key driver of efficacy of care, so it’s important for physicians to maintain an active, ongoing relationship with their patients over time. Healthcare is retail and has to leverage the same principles that drive consumers’ loyalty to their grocery store, car mechanic, or even telephone provider.
2. The future of healthcare will be proactive, not reactive
During open enrollment this fall, patients will decide whether to switch or stick with their health insurance plans. It’s an opportunity for payers to start a dialogue right away with their members to enhance their relationship.
By asking simple questions like how satisfied a patient has been with his or her previous health insurance and what assistance is needed to make an educated decision for 2017 coverage, a health plan can learn a lot of valuable information about its customer. For instance, the customer may not have had an annual check-up with a physician last year.
Whatever nuggets of information that can be gleaned from conversations like these can be powerful catalysts of a positive patient experience. But it will require providers to spend more time talking with their patients—not at them. And it will also require them to take a close look at how they deliver service and leverage technology to improve their efficiency.
The good news is that technology can make it easier for providers to manage their relationships with patients. Telehealth and population health management solutions can automate front office functions, so payers and providers can refocus resources on the patients themselves. The same solutions can increase access to and quality of care for patients.
What will happen if payers and providers don’t make the adjustments needed to close the gaps? Millennials, who are beginning to be larger consumers of healthcare, are unlikely to accept the current healthcare supply chain. They will be unsatisfied not being able to have their medical records on their cell phone and not being able to see a doctor through virtual channels. As such, it’s possible that they will force new supply chains that will meet their demands of convenience, cost, and efficacy of care. The complacency of status-quo with Baby Boomers and Gen X, I believe, is on its last leg, and those who see this as an opportunity will be able to drive meaningful and sustainable changes to improve health outcome and optimize the cost of care.
What do you think is the more likely scenario? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
1. Xerox. (2016). Study conducted by Y&R’s BAV Consulting on behalf of Xerox among 761 U.S. adults who are healthcare decision-makers for their households and 204 healthcare payers and providers. Full results and methodology available upon request.