Healthcare Consumerism: You Cannot Predict The Past

You cannot predict the past; unless you are looking at healthcare.

Healthcare is very predictable when it comes to customer experience.  At least from the perspective of healthcare’s customers.  The problem is not that there are bad experiences.  The problem is that there are good ones elsewhere and patients and consumers compare those good experiences to the bad ones they have in healthcare.

If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. It’s what you do. A group of kids is running from a murderer in the middle of the woods when they stumble upon a dark, old cabin. “Let’s hide in the attic,” exclaimed the teenage boy.  “No, in the basement,” shouts his girlfriend.  A hysterical girl is crying and asks, “Why can’t we just get in the running car?!” the others dismiss her as crazy “Are you crazy?! Let’s hide behind the guy wearing the hockey mask.” They run towards the sound of the chainsaw. The guy wearing the hockey mask gives them a look as if he can’t believe how stupid the kids are. “Head for the cemetery!” shouts the oldest teenager.

Poor decisions. Head for the cemetery. Whether you are in the provider, payer, or pharma community, we’ve all been in one of those meetings where someone asks, why can’t we head for the cemetery?  The rest of the people in the meeting dismiss him and run toward the sound of the chainsaw.

Suppose the cemetery suggestion is, “We need to create daily habituation with our patients and consumers.”  Stated more simply, we need to get them to interact with us daily, not just once every two to three years. If a patient or consumer only contacted us once a year, creating daily habituation means getting people to increase their rate of contact by 36,500 percent!

So, how does healthcare achieve daily habituation, and what would it look like?

There is a great deal of activity in healthcare around cloud computing. Almost every health organization is doing something with a cloud, but only with their own cloud. But few if any health systems share their cloud any more than they share their cafeteria. Not only do they not share it with other providers, they don’t share it with payers, they don’t share it with pharmacies, and they do not share it with their patients and consumers.

For example, Philadelphia has several very good health systems. Imagine looking out from the top of one of the city’s highest buildings — what would you see? You would see a cloud hovering above the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Across the street, another cloud would be floating above CHOP. One above Thomas Jefferson; one above Einstein, Hahnemann, a Cancer Treatment Center of America, and the Philadelphia VA.

A few dozen single clouds. Partly cloudy.

You continue looking, and you see that the sun is shining on all the people entering and leaving the various health systems. That is because the clouds only cover the health systems. The clouds do not cover the patients or the visitors or the family members.

If you are asking yourself, what is the answer for achieving daily habituation?  People —patients and consumers — are missing the two things they need the most to drive any kind of habituation:

  1. They have no effortless way to communicate anything about their health with you — your call center is not a communication tool; calling your organization is the last act of a desperate person.
  2. Your organization has not given them a compelling reason to communicate with you.

What healthcare needs is Healthcare Relationship Management to interconnect:

  • Patients and providers
  • Consumers — prospective patients — and providers
  • Consumers and payers
  • Consumers and pharmacies
  • Providers to payers to pharmacies to consumers

Healthcare needs a Healthcare Relationship Management Cloud,. An interactive, interconnected way of communicating whatever one party wants the other party to know.

And what do patients and consumers want you to know about them? Nobody knows. And the reason nobody knows is that nobody ever asked them. Heck, if we are being honest, most providers do not even track why people call.

Last week, I met with a senior executive of a very large payer. During our meeting, I drew a large, oblong shape to represent his customers. Way over by one end, I portioned off a small bit of the shape to represent the fraction of his customers that interacted with them on a regular basis. Our discussion focused not on the tiny portion of people that communicated with his organization, but rather on the much larger group of members who never communicated with them.

Providers have a portion of the population they serve who do not interact with them. And so, do pharmacies. Not interacting, and not needing to interact are two different things. Not interacting results from:

  • No compelling reason to interact
  • No effortless way to interact

Now suppose consumers had an easy way to interact with your organization on a regular basis. And suppose they had a compelling reason to interact with your organization on a regular basis. Why would that be a good thing for both parties? These are a few things that spring to mind:

  • Healthier people
  • Improved care coordination
  • Reduced admissions and readmissions
  • Population health management
  • Patient acquisition and retention

And that is how healthcare demonstrates that it cannot predict the past.  People cannot interact with their healthcare services.  And they never could.  If you want to play lumberjack you should learn to carry your end of the log.


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