The Empowered Patient: Preparing for a New Age of the Healthcare Customer Webinar Q&A

KKate McCarthy, Guest Speaker at Windstream’s “The Empowered Patient” webinar.

As a follow-up to the September 21, 2016 webinar featuring Forrester, Senior Analyst Kate McCarthy answered a few questions from Windstream.

Question: Why has the Healthcare industry been behind other industries in responding to the Age of the Customer?

Answer: Healthcare customers (patients) have historically been trapped. Their insurance choices were limited to a market served primarily by employers and government plans (Medicare and Medicaid). And while choice existed for some in terms of providers (doctors and hospitals), information about quality of providers was not available. Doctors and hospitals were selected by reputation or by default in the case of emergent care. In a fee-for-service, primarily group health insurance market neither provider nor payer were incentivized to engage the individual consumer. As the insurance market shifts to an increasingly B2C model and toward value-based payment that encourages preventative care, a need to understand and engage healthcare customers has emerged. Healthcare lags more than a decade behind other industries in adopting business technologies that allow them to understand and engage their customers.  For providers, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have been necessary for regulatory compliance, but capital (time and cost) intensive investments. EHRs have not delivered the patient insight necessary to pivot to value-based-care or engage patients for better clinical outcomes and satisfaction. For insurers, a shifting business model to B2C requires different tools and skills to engage their customers. Both payer and provider will need to invest in new business technologies to engage their empowered patient and customer in the new business model.

Question: How well are healthcare providers doing engaging patients as consumers?  When they do it well, how does it affect their business?

Answer: By and large, consumer (patient) engagement remains a challenge for healthcare organizations. Though there are better tools for things like appointment reminders and flu shots, engagement for disease prevention, clinical protocol adherence and financial liability planning remains low at even the best organizations. We do see pockets of change and successful engagement, particularly in academic medicine. Cleveland Clinic uses unstructured data and cognitive technologies to better understand patient populations and customize interventions for cardiac rehab. Massachusetts General Hospital used Apple’s Research Kit to study their Type II diabetes population and was able to segment that population and identify improved treatment protocols to improve outcomes. When organizations succeed in engaging patients it leads to lower cost, better outcomes and improved satisfaction. As the healthcare industry pivots away from fee-for-service in favor of value-based care, getting engagement right across all patients and consumers is critical for success in the new healthcare economy.

Question: Do you think healthcare providers being more open to cloud deployment models changes the ease of engaging with patients? If so, how?

Answer: Adoption of cloud and SaaS based technologies has been slower in healthcare than other industries, but as organizations begin to engage with these technologies it improves their business agility. Cloud is typically a faster and more cost effective method of deployment. As healthcare organizations struggle with reduced budgets and seek to deploy new solutions more quickly, cloud is a great option. Though cloud deployment itself will not necessarily change the way, or the ease with which we engage patients, it is the case that many of the better tools for patient engagement are offered via cloud. And as more data and engagement is initiated from the patient, cloud enables easier connectivity to the ecosystem of consumer devices and data.

Question: What are some strategies for traditional healthcare providers to differentiate themselves with the addition of new competitors like Curbside Care, Teledoc, or Doc On Call?

Answer: Many healthcare providers are investing in telehealth and other alternative care settings to extend their reach and compete with new players in the provider market. Virtual care is expected to outpace outpatient care as a place of service in the next decade. To make that pivot, organizations must offer virtual care. Organizations may offer this place of service and related services through partnership with organizations such as Teledoc and others, or they may deploy their own proprietary solutions and services. Unlike retail health which succeeded in disrupting the primary care model for low-acuity services by offering a more convenient, low-cost alternative, healthcare providers are positioned well to succeed against new competitors in virtual care. In virtual care, the opportunity to connect with your physician, rather than an unknown physician, is a differentiator that consumers appreciate.

Connect, communicate and collaborate with reliable, available and scalable Windstream Network and Data Services.

To read more on our perspective on the Healthcare industry view these blogs:
Empowered Patient: The Engaged Patient
Enhance Healthcare Provider Agility and Embrace Cloud