Bobby Mukkamala, M.D., American Medical Association board chairman, recently shared an interesting anecdote about his wife, an OB-GYN, and the state of health care digital transformation.
He noted that she performs robotic surgery and then goes back to her office to fax information from the surgery to the patient’s primary care physician. “It’s like if Fred Flintstone and George Jetson lived in the same era,” Mukkamala said at Modern Healthcare’s recent Transformation Summit.
While humorous, the illustration is a metaphor about how significantly health care has evolved in some operational areas and how far it still needs to go in others. Addressing this dichotomy today is critical as health care executives face rising competition from retailers in primary care and strive to meet rising consumer expectations for greater convenience, improved access and lower costs.
Keys to Consumer Engagement
In analyzing the current state of transformation, leaders from health systems, insurers, digital health companies and others at the event shared the following insights about how providers can capitalize on their strengths and shore up areas for improvement to better engage consumers.
1 | Leverage patient trust in your initiatives.
Health care organizations sit in a unique and valued position of patient trust, noted Phoebe Yang, general manager of Amazon Web Services. Hospitals and health systems should leverage that strength to get to know patients better and partner with tech companies to enable them to connect with consumers faster. Recognize that trust between patients and clinicians is what retailers and other disruptors are still trying to develop.
2 | Develop a comfort level with disruption.
While disruption is viewed as an exciting opportunity among technology developers and companies pushing into primary care, enthusiasm among health care organizations tends to be more muted, observed James Nicholls, partner at Fitzroy Health, which partners with health systems that commercialize distinctive capabilities.
Be willing to disrupt yourself and state your case to change, urged Karen Murphy, chief innovation officer at Geisinger Health. “With digital enablement, we need to get out of this 9-to-5 mode and interact with patients much more frequently,” Murphy said. One way to start: Eliminate or revise antiquated processes like having patients fill out demographic and insurance information during every patient encounter.
3 | Don‘t go it alone.
More than three-quarters of health care organizations have formed strategic partnerships to help advance their digital health transformation, according to a survey conducted by telehealth provider Teladoc and the Health Management Academy.
Last October, Jefferson Health and venture capital firm General Catalyst formed an innovation partnership to help the health system achieve its strategic priorities, diversify revenue streams and modernize its technology platform while eliminating siloed, disconnected technologies.
Stephen Klasko, M.D., executive-in-residence at General Catalyst and former CEO of Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health, believes the health system’s proactive digital health transformation helped to maintain Jefferson Health’s A-stable credit rating while also allowing it to own a percentage of the digital health companies with which it does business.
Meanwhile, Geisinger worked with external partners to develop a platform to help manage patients with chronic conditions that uses artificial intelligence, remote patient monitoring and patient-generated technology systems.
When forming strategic partnerships, Rushika Fernandopulle, chief innovation officer of One Medical, a tech-enabled primary care company, stressed the importance of long-term agreements to achieve mutual objectives. Both sides need that commitment, he said, so innovation companies can get the funding they need and reassure partners that they won’t be going away.
Regardless of which path health care organizations choose to accelerate their transformations, maintaining a consumer-centric focus will be a critical success factor.