Some of technology’s biggest players had a major presence on the exhibit floor at the 2019 HIMSS event — chief among them where Google and Amazon. With these vendors and others like Apple and Walmart making strides to provide solutions that put patients in control of their health information, there is no doubt that the consumerization of healthcare IT is coming.
While these mega vendors will continue to apply their understanding of consumer expectations and machine learning tools to meet and exceed customer demands. As any healthcare tech vendor will tell you, it’s not an easy road. According to the HIMSS 2019 predictions report, “Though these companies [Amazon, Google, and Walmart] have a sophisticated understanding of buyers’ needs and expectations, they come lacking a real understanding of the depth and complexity of healthcare delivery.”
Here are some of the major trends and topics that emerged at HIMSS related to the consumerization of healthcare and value-based care delivery:
While the verdict is still out as to whether or not this is the end of an era where Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems dominate the vendor landscape, what is clear is that more consumers are taking an active role in their own medical decisions. Consumers expect experiences similar to those they receive while shopping, paying bills, or making other daily decisions.
In fact, a recent survey of more than 2,000 adults found that nine out of 10 consumers prefer to be in control of their care decisions or collaborate with a physician. It should come as no surprise then that these same survey respondents are also more proactive when it comes to learning about their symptoms, with nearly 70 percent of consumers reporting they look up their symptoms online rather than going to the doctor first.
This shift towards patients taking a more active role in their care is driving healthcare providers to focus more on providing patient-centric care. Progressive healthcare organizations recognize that patients want to be more involved and are looking for innovative ways to work with patients as equal partners in their care.
Geisinger CIO Karen Murphy’s remarks in a session on patient engagement sum up one of the main challenges. She notes that in some ways the patient experience at a hospital is actually worse than it was 30 years ago because the system has added so much complexity.
“You really shouldn’t need an interpreter to figure out how to navigate the healthcare system,” she said. “It’s one thing to need a navigator for a language barrier, but for a barrier that we have set up due to the complexity of the system? The idea shouldn’t be ‘let’s add advocates’. The idea should be let’s fix the system so that patients can really feel the empathy and the caring that the team really has.”
In Murphy’s talk at HIMSS, she went on to discuss how innovations in patient engagement will come by thinking about the problem in an entirely new way.
For example, at Geisinger, they are piloting “fresh food pharmacies,” to help patients with diabetes build good eating habits. They are also launching multiple marketing campaigns to de-stigmatize opioid abuse in order to encourage patients to seek treatment and recovery. She also noted that technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will be essential to enhance patient engagement, rather than replace human interactions.
“We have to leverage technology where we can so we have the human interaction where we most need it,” Murphy said.
Consumer concerns around the high-cost of healthcare is a growing concern. In fact, 90 percent of consumers have expressed some level of concern about their ability to pay unexpected medical bills, according to a recent survey. The survey also found that only 50 percent of consumers have ever asked about cost and only 33 percent of consumers believe they have the ability to shop for better healthcare prices.
With consumer frustration growing over high healthcare costs, it’s no surprise that value-based care became a major topic at the conference. Value-based healthcare is a delivery model in which providers, including hospitals and physicians, are paid based on patient health outcomes. Discussions at HIMSS centered around investments in technology and infrastructure to support a value-based care delivery model including:
While today’s tech makes healthcare available to anyone with a mobile device or access to a computer, value-based care will only be a success if patients engage. Educating consumers, and providing incentives to engage through our new connected healthcare reality, will be critical for the value-based delivery model to take off and thrive.