What Is Healthcare’s Missing Link?

All things being equal. We use the phrase a lot. It occurred to me that the only reason to use the phrase is that more often than not, all things are not equal.

In healthcare, experiences never equal expectations. The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want with their healthcare organization–I borrowed that phrase from a colleague.

If you look at which U.S. firms were market leaders ten years ago, and compare that list to today, you will find many of those firms are no longer on the list—go digital or go home. What is it that the best consumer-focused firms in the country do that others don’t? They created a value-experience that gets consumers to visit them daily.

And how did they do that; were they just lucky? The easy answer would be to say that they put much of their business online. But that cannot be the whole answer. Providers and payers are online and none of them are listed as the best firms to work with. Being online does not get their customers, or patients if you prefer, to visit them daily. Heck, many customers and patients never visit their provider or payer online. And why not? Let me toss the question back at you; why would they? Can you think of a single reason why one of your customers or patients would visit your organization online every day?

Simply being digital is not the solution. Your EMR did not create a bold, new way of healthcare; it simply digitized the old way.

The statement about inequality at the start of this piece becomes relevant in this discussion because your organization likely created the inequality. It all comes down to expectations. Fact 1: If you do not know the expectations of a customer or patient you will never meet or exceed those expectations. The user experience continues to be less than the user’s expectations of what that experience should be.

Fact 2: Nobody’s user experience on the phone with their provider or payer will exceed their expectations. That is because given the choice most people would rather interact with you online. You don’t want to call your payer or provider anymore than they do, so why make them?

Terry Orlick published “Pursuit of Excellence” decades ago. The book was an instant hit; everyone read it. And the reason everyone read it is because people were astonished to learn that simply being average was the new excellence. The rule of thumb for delivering a customer experience became, “We may not be great, but we are at least as good as they are.”

Imagine a world where every single interaction you had with your payer or provider could be done online and done while providing a remarkable user experience. Now imagine a world where the user experience was so good that your customers came to you every day—I know, that sounds absurd.

Providers who are saying, “There is no way we could get people to visit us daily, we cannot even get them to visit us once a year,” are not imagining a world. To get people to come you must give them a reason to come.

“Why would a healthy person want to visit us every day?” How about because they want to stay healthy? Try this exercise. Put your most creative people in a room and tell them not to come out of the room until they have imagined a compelling reason to get people in your community to visit your health system online every day.

Here’s a hint. I visit my phone every day, going to two different health-related applications—tracking my exercise and my diet. These applications don’t share information with each other. They do not assess my health, and they do not warn me when my health data should raise an alarm. They simply store data—just like your hundred million dollar EMR.

Other than a lack of imagination, there is no reason your health system cannot offer your customers, members of the population whose health you are supposed to be managing, a web-based super-app that creates a super experience. One that causes them to reach out to you.

What if that super-app let consumers do the following?

  • Enter a range of health-related data; exercise, diet, vital signs, track use of prescription medications
  • Share data among the apps
  • Review the data
  • Assess someone’s health based on that information
  • Warn the person if something seems amiss
  • Let them chat with you
  • Let them ask you to call them

People who are not even your patients might sign up for that. Sally did. Sally is forty-one, married, and has two children. Sally and her family just moved to your service area.

Now imagine that from that same super-app Sally could:

  • Select a primary care provider
  • Schedule an appointment online, using a mobile device, or by phone
  • Choose between an office, tele-health, and in-home visit
  • Be provided with the different prices for each appointment type
  • Be told what her out-of-pocket cost would be for the appointment
  • Receive payment confirmation
  • Be notified that her payer information was submitted
  • Update her health profile online and create profiles for her children
  • Track her health-points
  • Chat with a nurse
  • Review her labs
  • Request an authorization
  • Be notified her doctor is running 20 minutes late
  • Set up a payment plan
  • Be notified to schedule their children for school physicals
  • Have her families prescriptions refilled automatically…and so forth

That is what we have been talking about. That is a customer portal. Sally thinks you did this all for her. But you know that once Sally has entered all of her information into your health system she is no more likely to change health systems than she is to change banks.

Zero-cost patient acquisition and retention–the missing link. Imagine a world.

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