As healthcare stakeholders lean into 2017, early indicators show business will be anything but usual. Industry players must contend with an aging population, and the future of the Affordable Care Act remains in flux.
More questions than sureties abound. But — the solutions being discussed offer more attention to the situational and behavioral needs of care consumers than before seen. In some cases, these advances are delivered with new technology, in others it’s a new mindset.
MentorMate partnered with leading Minnesota healthcare advocacy and partnership organization Medical Alley Association to ask the question top of mind for leaders across the country.
What bets can companies make on digital health and its evolving role in the care experience that transcend a climate of uncertainty? What future healthcare trends can the industry continue designing and delivering in 2017?
We spoke with subject matter experts from within the enterprise tier — organizations including Medtronic, RedBrick Health and Optum — to groups like TreeHouse Health and Healthcare.mn serving the entrepreneurs working to make healthcare more effective and inclusive.
1. Consumers drive their healthcare experiences.
We’ve seen technology accelerate future healthcare trends and empower users in nearly every industry. Consumers no longer are bound to engage with media on a set schedule. They can time shift it. Consumers can reconfigure their financial portfolio as long as the network is strong. Deliveries can be scheduled remotely — all assisted and enabled by technology. In most cases the interactions aren’t only faster and simpler, they are customized by user preference.
“I think we are seeing a continuous disruption of the healthcare space in favor of the demands of the consumer.”
Jen Swanson, Sr. Director, Digital Product Management Optum Consumer Experience Group
Empowering care consumers is no longer a value-add for providers searching to establish brand ownership. It’s an expectation. Complex transactions can be instigated and managed in other regulated industries virtually. Consumers have demanded, “Why not healthcare?” And, companies are listening.
“Leaders are starting to think about patients and providers as actual consumers placing the user more at the center of engagement and process decisions.”
Jeffrey Blank, Managing Director, TreeHouse Health
Consumers have an incentive to engage as employers move to higher deductible plans. “Patients” are no longer a group to be directed. Care consumers are a motivated buying segment to be courted in not just the maintenance of their care, but the delivery and management of it.
What this means for businesses:
- Enable consumers to serve as co-managers of their care
- Provide levels of autonomy the range of segments in your target audience seek
- Allow consumers to participate in solution and experience design
2. The context of care adapts to fit the consumer.
Now that consumers’ expectations of healthcare have evolved, the technology must adapt to meet them. Businesses have already begun to separate care from a set time and place.
Mental healthcare options offered via mobile including Joyable, LearntoLive and 7 Cups of Tea, allow patients to engage with treatments when convenient. Similarly, Minneapolis-based POPS! Diabetes Care enables patients to test blood glucose throughout the day using a blood glucose meter connected to their smartphone.
Though currently, the healthcare solution landscape is fragmented. Different providers offer proprietary solutions to read results, interact with specialists and manage care.
“In any other industry, there’s a free flow of information that’s not hampered by technology, rather technology helps assist it. In healthcare, it’s the opposite, because technology is facilitating the access of information. It’s forcing the patient to become the central point of distribution, a role to which they are not accustomed, rather than having technology integrate.”
Sara Ratner, SVP Compliance and Corporate Systems, RedBrick Health
While some members of the buying group are perfectly proficient synthesizing care reports and disseminating information between specialists, others lack the technology or the ability.
Thus, a one-size fits all approach isn’t custom enough. Businesses must design and deliver solutions with feature sets robust enough to serve segments who are capable of co-managing their care and segments who are not.
Besides serving the needs of a diversely able consumer group, others experts believe 2017 may be the year the industry sees more transparency and centralization of data.
“We’ve had many of the same ideas for a decade, but I think 2017 will be the year data networks come together to create more of a complete patient picture, the humans and machines will start linking in meaningful clusters through the opening of APIs. The world is finally ready to realize the promise we’ve been talking about.”
Björn Stansvik, Founder/CEO, MentorMate
Increased access and data transparency raises meaningful questions.
- Where will the complete picture of patient health live?
- How will patient data be secured?
MentorMate CEO and Founder Björn Stansvik, sees patient data being centralized on mobile devices, evidenced by Apple’s increasing fortification of HealthKit. Though if sensitive patient data is being released there, an initial proctored moment may be required to verify the mobile user is indeed the patient whose identity they claim.
What this means for businesses:
- Care options will diversify offering options based on preferred modes of engagement
- Patients will be able access care in comparatively flexible microinteractions at the convenience of the consumer
Healthcare gets personal.
In the past, healthcare treatments have been shaped in part by the efficiency bias, as evidenced by the drug approval process. Treatments were designed to serve populations of people. Moving forward, experts predict providers will view each consumer individually, and at a wider angle beyond the scope of individual conditions. By factoring in variables like lifestyle, activity level and occupation, providers can address external factors that may be impacting the success of given treatments. Some experts believe coordinators may be needed long-term to decrease stress on providers and assist in the management of more holistic treatment plans.
“If a provider is attempting to improve the medication adherence of a patient, they must make sure the patient has food everyday and a consistent place to live, or they are not going to focus on their medication. Using Maslow’s hierarchy as an example, we really need to focus on creating a foundation first. On top of that, patients can build a healthier life.”
Glafira Marcon Lead Organizer, Healthcare.mn
The increased access to and decreased cost of genetic tests is also contributing to the personalization of healthcare.
What this means for businesses:
- Care delivery options are tailored to the unique situation presented by each patient
- Care coordinators support patients removing the burden from providers and consumers