How Can You Recast Real-Time Patient Engagement?

Most days I feel like I am Alan Turing’s ghost. The reason I do what I do is to entice companies to do what they cannot imagine, and most times I do not have to apologize for that because they have not taken the time to imagine it.

I look at healthcare through puce-colored glasses. Healthcare services are a world-class, 2.0 industry. No other nation can provide the services we provide. However, the business of healthcare, how we run it, is a 0.2 industry. Providing world-class services without being able to make it easy for people to acquire those services is ridiculous. Isn’t it?

Running any business well comes down to doing a few basic tasks extremely well every time. Being successful requires that tasks are executed at a level above and beyond how others execute those same tasks, and it requires that your customers believe that you can do that again and again.

Once patients and consumers believe a provider is not capable of performing at that level, nobody is going to award that provider a do-over.

Several formerly grand firms missed their opportunity; Blockbuster, Radio Shack, and Sears provide grim reminders. Barnes and Noble seemed to have just realized that their boat sailed and left them tied to the dock. NPR announced that the former bookstore behemoth is considering turning their stores into wine bars. Maybe their business strategy is that after millions of their former customers buy books on Amazon that they will come to Barnes and Noble to read their books and enjoy a nice pinot noir with fava beans.

Each of those dinosaurs failed to recognize that people want to conduct their business electronically. Firms need to go from bricks to clicks.  Healthcare consumerism operates a bricks to bricks model.

CVS’s Minute Clinic has redefined healthcare consumerism.  CVS recognized that for issues that are not emergencies, people do not care who is behind Door Number 1, as long as the person behind the door can help them.  CVS designed healthcare’s Easy Button.  And CVS will make getting care even easier by launching telemedicine.

To try competing, health systems, and others launched urgent care facilities.  Even the name ‘urgent care’ needs to be reimagined.  Providers market it as ‘urgent’ care.  People, however, use it as an urgentish care facility. Or when they want to be seen by a doctor, instead of nurse or nurse practitioner.  Or when they don’t have the time to wait until their PCP can see them.  Urgent care offers a doctor—to be named later—at a facility that is open 130% more hours than the average PCP.  That’s real-time patient engagement. Patient engagement when the patient wants it, not just when your office happens to be open.

Urgentish care allows people to be seen by a doctor—whomever is working—at a facility that is open 130% more hours than their primary care provider.  What you want when you want–like TiVo for healthcare.  Can’t watch 60 Minutes Sunday at 7 p.m.?  TiVO it and watch it when you want.  Your PCP doesn’t have an open appointment today, or it has one at 3 p.m. when you have a business meeting–no problem.  The urgentish care facility two miles from your home is open until 10 p.m.

That’s real-time patient engagement. Patient engagement when the patient wants it.

CVS even let’s people reserve an appointment online. Most urgentish care facilities do not offer that feature. For those who may be interested in adding online urgent care scheduling on an app, it should look like this:

real time engagement

I cannot think of a single entity that has managed to put the toothpaste back into the tube after having missed their industry’s defining moment.

Healthcare consumerism’s defining moment is now. Or, never.

Consumerism today is a 0.2 business model. It relies on call centers which are open half as many hours as Comcast’s call centers. It relies on PCP facilities open M-F from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.  The healthcare consumerism model needs to leapfrog itself. Executives can try to multiply the model by 10 to get it to 2.0, or they can develop a customer-friendly consumerism strategy.

Consumerism 2.0 is:

  • Easy
  • Convenient
  • Mobile
  • Interactive
  • Cognitive (Understand, Reason, Learn…URL)
  • Cloud-based
  • 24 X 7

If healthcare executives are confused about going to consumerism 2.0, that’s okay.  Their competitors are not confused.


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