As uncomfortable as it may make you, healthcare is changing. In large part, these changes stem from the technology disruption that has touched every part of our personal and private lives. A decade ago most consumers didn’t Google medical advice, and most hospitals didn’t offer patient portals for appointment setting or remote monitoring tools to track chronic disease. The innovations of the future will rely heavily on these technologies; artificial intelligence and big data are predicted to have lasting effects on care delivery.
For the small to mid-size practice or local hospital without an innovation officer, these changes may feel like science fiction. But as sure as you’ll use a phone app to navigate to dinner tonight, technology-driven changes are coming, in large part because the consumers you serve demand it.
How is today’s connected patient going to change even the smallest practice in the near future? How do these patients view healthcare? How will this digitally connected worldview shape the services you provide? Why should the small to mid-size provider pay attention to these trends?
Millennials Reshaping Healthcare?
“86% of patients currently have health insurance and are generally satisfied with their care, but healthcare providers will likely face pressure in the near future from the next generation of patients – millennials – who expressed strong interest in using new technologies to collaborate with their primary care physician.”
2015 State of the Connected Patient
Millennials are about to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest population in the United States. For doctors nearing retirement today, it may not matter that this digitally savvy population view healthcare in a different light from prior generations. For the rest of us, the attitudes these young people bring to healthcare are predicted to force a change in even the most reluctant care providers.
Pew Research Center defines the Millennial population as those born between 1981 and 1996. There will be 73 million in this population cohort this year. They are the first population having grown up with the Internet, and as such, have differing views from their Baby Boomer predecessors on technology. Pew Research shares data on how these young patients use digital tools:
- 92% own smartphones.
- 85% use social media.
- 97% use the Internet, stating it has benefited them both professionally and personally.
Ironically, today, even Baby Boomers are using these tools at a higher rate than ever before. But it is Millennials who are reshaping healthcare’s future in new and more technology-centric ways. A 2015 study from Salesforce showed that:
- 73% of Millennials are interested in using mobile devices to communicate with their doctors.
- 71% would use a mobile app given to them by their doctor to manage their health.
- 63% would proactively share health data from a wearable device with their doctor.
- 61% would use 3D printed health devices such as prosthetics or hearing aids.
- 60% want a telehealth option to visit their doctor.
- 57% say they would use new digital devices such as the recently-approved digital pill that comes with a remote sensor that monitors prescription compliance.
A Forbes article illustrated the biggest difference between Baby Boomers and Millennials:
Millennials have grown up in a technology-powered consumer environment where transparency, rapid delivery, and convenience are the norm. They’re now transferring these expectations to the healthcare industry, which has profound implications for healthcare providers and care outcomes.
We also know that this younger generation is abandoning the old primary care model for more on-demand care. This is causing some headaches for the traditional hospital seeking to retain these relationships – and the revenue they provide. The Washington Post reports that this younger generation is attracted to the speed and convenience of:
- Retail minute clinics housed in big box retail or pharmacy chains.
- Freestanding urgent care providers with convenient weekend or late night hours.
- Online telemedicine providers that offer a virtual visit straight to their cell phone.
It should be noted that these providers typically post their fees in an unprecedented show of consumer-driven transparency. However, ironically, as healthcare attempts to move from episodic one-off treatment to care continuity, these healthcare disrupters offer the convenience of the quick fix. Forbes scolds these providers, stating:
Care that’s delivered on a per-event basis by an array of unrelated providers can’t match the continuity of care that is achievable when a patient receives holistic care within the context of a longer-term physician relationship.
But it is perhaps this generation’s insistence on cost control in healthcare that is fostering changes in an industry where costs have skyrocketed. Studies tell us that our patients are now skipping appointments due to cost – and it’s not just Millennials who are paying attention to the cost of care. While this form of consumerism forces providers toward increased transparency, it also has the potential to negatively impact healthcare outcomes.
Given all these attitudinal shifts, how can healthcare providers of all sizes change their practice to meet these demands, compete big freestanding or minute-providers, while still providing a high level of clinical care?
Changing Practices to Adapt to Millennial Trends
Adapting to these new trends requires a well-thought-out approach toward patient-centered care. To keep your healthcare practice current with today’s trends, the clinical delivery model must be:
Healthcare providers must look toward consumer-facing models from outside healthcare to see how service delivery delights customers. While traditional healthcare models paid less attention to consumer satisfaction, today there is too much completion for doctors to not be customer-focused.
Revamping workflows to increase revenue while cutting costs is imperative for a system where healthcare is simply no longer affordable.
- Personalize and personal
Ironically, it is the big box retailers and e-commerce businesses that have mastered the art of personalized communication and interaction. Hospitals must learn from these companies and use the big data they’ve collected to improve the customer experience.
Given that our patients are highly technologically advanced, the healthcare providers of the future will need to embrace the use of online portals, remote monitoring, video conferencing, and other tools to bring healthcare directly to the consumers we’re trying to attract.
Even the smallest healthcare provider can cut costs and personalize care by using OrthoLive’s telehealth application. It’s an affordable and easy-to-use tool for the orthopedic specialist that can keep your practice current with today’s healthcare consumers. Call us to start the conversation.