From the July 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Bipin Thomas, Contributing Reporter
The paradigm shift toward personalization and automation that has affected so many industries works somewhat differently in the case of health care.
Here, the transition is more complete: Instead of just automating a service or tailoring recommendations to individual taste, health care’s data are more sensitive, more various and more unstructured (in part due to the immense number of uncoded images) than in other industries. These data include functioning, mood, pain sensation, emotions, metrics, biopsies, changes in cognition, photos and X-rays, self-reports and the reports of others. They are comparable against a healthy standard, but most importantly against the best functioning of the unique individual.
The closest analogy may be retail, an industry that has personalized rapidly and is naturally consumer-driven. For example, retailers have diversified their channels so that consumers can interact with products and services in the way or ways that best suit them. Telehealth is a good example of retail wisdom migrating to the health care sector — just think back to the case of the 2-year-old with the runny nose. The basic mindset that health care should meet consumers on their terms will be necessary going forward.
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Today’s health care consumers are accustomed to visiting health-related websites to learn about their circumstances and improve their well-being. Seeking the same connectivity they find in banking, investment and transportation, they demand heightened access from across the health care value chain. Further, confronted by increasing out-of-pocket expenses for health care, they are becoming more discerning about where they spend their money. This market force exists in the bundled or managed care arena, too, where employees will be educated about cost, not just out-of-pocket expense alone. Just as someone buying a big-screen TV online consults various sites to compare TV types, screen sizes, refresh speeds, delivery times, and most of all, price, so too the empowered health care consumer can look at outcomes, reviews of bedside manner, waiting times, convenience of parking and other factors to make an informed choice about where to go for care.
Savvy payers and providers must capitalize on this new appetite for information. They should provide tools for self-monitoring as well as care teams and coordinators who connect members to appropriate health and wellness programs. In this new data-rich ecosystem, responsiveness is crucial: consumer compliance with drug regimens and lifestyle changes may be met with premium reductions, for instance, with consumer demand for both high-quality health care and market-oriented pricing.