Earlier this week, American Medical News published an article with some startling statistics. Of the 30 million or so Americans who will soon have access to healthcare courtesy of health insurance reforms, about 7.5 million of those will be young people – the 20-somethings. The article cautioned operators of hospitals and clinics that this particular population of young adults has very different expectations about such things as customer service, mobile communication, collaboration, information sharing, and the use of technology than let’s say the “typical” patient. It urged providers to starting thinking hard about how they will attract and retain the “Facebook generation”.
For well more than a decade, I’ve been sharing the following list of e-Health attributes or best practices during my keynote addresses at health industry conferences. It’s a list that incorporates many of the on-line services and capabilities that people would like to be able use when dealing with healthcare providers.
- On-line appointment scheduling
- Web messaging and e-mail with physicians and support staff
- Prescription requests and refills
- Reminders and “information therapy”
- Access to personal health records
- Outcomes and disease management tools
- Ability to manage payments and benefits on-line
In my travels around the world, I’ve identified health systems that are already offering all of the above and more. Of course, it helps when the business model or reimbursement system is perfectly aligned with delivering those kinds of services on-line. Is it any wonder that in America you’ll find these advanced services primarily in managed care organizations that are both the payer and provider of care? You’ll also be more likely find these services in countries or organizations where healthcare is “socialized” or controlled by government. Again, the reason is better alignment with the payment system. It doesn’t make sense to use information technology to meet a person’s need for information or services if you will only get paid when they physically present themselves and receive what you offer in an exam room.
Today, the 20-somethings may be just a blip in the healthcare system’s overall demographic. As the AMN article points out, this is not a population of patients that typically uses a lot of healthcare services, but they will one day. And, I would maintain that it is not just the 20-somethings that will be coming to you with different expectations than patients of the past. The fastest growing demographic on-line is now baby boomers and seniors, and they too are beginning to express, and in fact demand, a different kind of relationship with their healthcare providers. Then there are all those folks in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. They too are on Facebook. They too are looking for physicians and hospitals that are far more progressive. And if you believe that reimbursement systems will increasingly be aligned around prevention and “accountable care”, then the stage is truly set and you will need to deliver the kinds of services that meet your patients’ growing expectations.
At Microsoft, we are working with organizations that understand where the “puck is moving” and plan to be there when it arrives. It may not be moving quite as fast as that puck in Wayne Gretzky’s famous analogy, but it is definitely moving in a new direction. And yes, I know you are consumed right now with electronic records for your practice or hospital. But you are going to need so much more than that to truly transform the way you do business and better serve your patients. Let us show you how.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft