We’ve been talking a lot about changes on the horizon – the role of wellness, the relationship between the cost and quality of healthcare, and the business opportunities available to organizations that can adapt to the changing landscape. As we look to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health reform legislation), HITECH and meaningful use, accountable care and medical homes, these changes are being motivated by the same set of simple drivers:
- The current cost of care is too high
- The healthcare system is overly dependent on labor
- Given what we spend, our population isn’t very healthy
The existing model is not equipped to fix these problems. In the future, the U.S. healthcare system will need to be far more effective with the financial resources available. It’s not a matter of trying to shift care delivery from doctors to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The care model needs to change.
One change that needs to happen is how we use technology to communicate with consumers and patients. Healthcare is 90 percent communications – most of what doctors do today is talk and listen. But almost all of that activity comes during a brief face-to-face meeting a few times per year. Few patients make life changes based on these interactions, and it’s unreasonable for us to expect they would.
Technology can help us engage with consumers and patients while also adapting to the varying levels of care they require. It allows us to communicate with them wherever they are. And it often requires little or no direct human intervention.
Here are some ways we should be communicating with consumers online:
- Alerts and reminders
- Service and screening recommendations
- Coaching to help patients understand their personal risks
- Educational materials that teach patients about diseases, medications and assist them in the decision making process for treatment options
- Coaching to help prevent the emergence of chronic health conditions
- Support systems to assist patients in the proper and effective management of chronic health conditions
- Support and education after an acute issue, such as following a surgery or hospital stay
- Support for informal caregivers
This list is by no means comprehensive. Still very little of this happens today. Some of the communications, such as reminders, can be automated while other items, such as coaching, require a combination of staff involvement and self-management tools.
The interactions range from clinical to administrative, vary in frequency and utilize a variety of channels including secure email, patient portals, video conferencing, text messaging, automated calling and mailings. The common thread is the patients and their specific situation and needs.
Of course, doing all of this successfully requires a tremendous coordination of messaging. Organizations will need to coordinate their marketing messages, hospital messages and clinic messages using personalized and targeted interactions across a wide range of channels. When done well, this is an opportunity to build a relationship with patients and consumers.