The Path to Trust in Consumer Health

The Path to Change in Consumer Health

One of our team members has a mom in her late 80’s, a charming lady who is a mom, grandmother and great grandmother. Recently she had a very challenging setback requiring hospitalization. Treatment was quite tricky requiring leading specialists in neurology and cardiology plus hospitalists and her own primary care team.

The medical center she was in was well equipped with technology including ubiquitous wifi. Every day, almost hour to hour, the family and the clinical team was reviewing her current status and making tradeoffs on treatment paths.

The family that is local to the grandmother is very involved in her care. They also have a family member who is a physician but lives in a distant city. This family member is a great resource.

So a very 21st century thing happened: an iPhone 6 Plus was present all the time in grandmother’s hospital room (owned by a family member) and the medical center team of physicians, nurses and physical therapists were more than willing to engage in clinical discourse with their geographically distant colleague. They used FaceTime.

In a matter of seconds a bond occurred between the clinical professionals on either end of the FaceTime connection and meaningful discussion and decision making occurred. Voila! What an efficient way for the family and the attending clinicians to communicate and make decisions.

However, when it came time for texting between the family and the physicians there was some hesitancy. HIPAA (the federal law covering consumer health privacy) came into play in the minds of the physicians. Perhaps that is because texts are in fact text and could be hacked, privacy and trust violated. FaceTime is real time and in this specific case was not recorded. But it could be hacked. No doubt.

Technology often drives change; sometimes great change. But our rules, regulations and laws often lag behind. Most readers probably have some awareness of Uber and airbnb and their struggles to move the legal needle into the 21st century for their own business needs. Taxi cab drivers in London protest Uber. Legislators in New York assail airbnb. Time will tell how this plays out.

But our view is that the time has come for broadly accepted “paths” that are rich and robust and thrive in a trusted social community. This kind of community shares its experiences in everyday health and wellness and offers effective ways to save time and money for consumers. Some of this has begun. Soon all can join and benefit.

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photo credit: Hands of time via photopin (license)

Patient to Patient and Consumer to Consumer

Patient to Patient and Consumer to Consumer

As a percentage of our lives we actually spend very little time when we think of ourselves as patients. If we are lucky that is less than 10% of time annually. Most of the time we are healthy citizens going about our lives. Certainly as we ride this wave of healthcare change more and more of us understand we are first and foremost consumers of health care; always driven to be as healthy and well as we possibly can.

However, when we are moms and dads we are also focused on our families and their health and wellness. We are trying to conduct a great symphony of eating right, exercise and wise use of health products and services that deliver the best family experience possible.

Part of the secret sauce is figuring out how to get stuff done in the least amount of time and in the most cost effective way. This is a tall order. For anyone; but especially for busy moms.  We also know our employers and the health care establishment have been focused on the big ticket items. They are working to reign in the use of expensive procedures and drugs. But the reality is that too many hours and billions of dollars are expended annually making everyday decisions about family asthma and allergy conditions or breast feeding challenges, learning disabilities, eczema, or sensory processing issues, and…you get the idea.

Great offerings like Patients Like Me have delivered patient/consumer insight for many years. There are others too. The good news is we are at a new inflection point where lots of new data is becoming available for the cost and quality of both products and services. That will make everyday decision-making smarter and shared. Stay tuned.

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Employers Reduce Role in Health Benefits

Employers Reduce Role in Health Benefits

Behind closed doors, a growing number of decision makers at large and small firms are gearing up step-by-step to reduce their role in providing healthcare plans to employees. This is not a nefarious development but a logical progression as American healthcare dramatically changes.

What employers are doing includes offering cash in many ways that will eventually enable consumers to make their own decisions in selecting their health plans. These developments enable choice but also require employees– who we shall now call consumers– to become smart shoppers not only for their health plans, but in choosing all the products and services they select to stay healthy and well.

One excellent result of these trends is a new offering from the Health Care Cost Institute called Guroo. As an initial offering, it helps point the way for better pricing information for healthcare procedures and services. It is still early and much more progress is necessary. Healthcare is one of the last “industries” to deliver product pricing information from a broad and transparent marketplace perspective. This work is finally gaining great momentum. In the ’90s, almost all travelers made use of travel agents; today, nearly all travelers turn to their laptops and smartphones to make travel arrangements. Starting now, consumers will take action to save time and money by turning to their smartphones to interact with their healthcare providers…and equally as much, they will turn to other consumers to gain insight and make decisions to guide their healthcare choices.

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Consumer Engagement in Healthcare

Consumer Engagement in Healthcare

There are a number of trends in delivering “front line healthcare”. These include the entry of major retailers committed to offering a range of services to consumers for everyday health. Another is that large healthcare systems have begun acquiring primary care practices to add to their arsenal of care. A third approach has seen the launch of new organizations working to innovate in their own approach to delivering health and wellness.
Each of these offerings has an essentially different business model. All of them are responding to the changes derived as we transition from fee-for service to pay-for-performance healthcare. And all of them want you.

What IS common to their mission and goals is to get you to engage. Consumer engagement is the holy grail of how health care can actually work in the future. The way consumers engage in the 21st century is driven to a great extent by their use of apps and websites. One of the most compelling formulas to enable this is by providing useful and effective apps that save people time and money.

We are starting to see delivery of specific apps offering opportunities to save the consumer either time or money. Often they are organization specific. Sometimes they are hard to use. Payers, Providers and Retailers are learning how to design these apps and are launching them. But the key will be when consumers have access to an app that integrates all the key functions consumers seek in making everyday healthcare choices.

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