The State of the Healthcare Industry

February 20, 2019

Global healthcare is experiencing dramatic change. New and emerging technologies, including AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and 3D printing, are not only impacting how, where and the precision with which healthcare is delivered,  but also healthcare as we know it. As patients take a more active role in their care experience, utilizing wearables and other self-quantifying devices and services, the wellness industry is increasingly blending with the healthcare system to create new value. Retailers are pushing healthcare towards a consumer-driven approach that necessitates digital platforms and an increasing degree of collaborative partnerships. We talked to Paul Stoddart, VP and Partner of IBM’s Digital Practice for Healthcare and Life Sciences to share his insights.

How would you describe the typical patient’s experience?

For a patient, the experience of healthcare isn’t very good because they're struggling to get access to good health care. Whether that means understanding where, when, and how to get access,  understanding the difference between ER, primary care, and urgent care, or knowing how to articulate a condition, where if you try to find out why ‘am I feeling this way,’ all of the sudden, you're faced with a medical dictionary. And that, obviously, impacts the people trying to deliver care as well, because if you end up going to ER and really you should be seeing a nurse practitioner in primary care, it causes chaos within the system and challenges the people trying to deliver care.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for companies that are trying to solve for that experience, and where are they investing?

In health care, people are trying to understand what it means to deliver patient-centered care or a patient's experience. But, ultimately, the systems and tools that are in place, your electronic record management system, is optimized for a physician. It is not optimized for you as a patient, even though it is all about you and holds all of your information. At its core, that is the CRM that everyone is working with, and yet, there is no relationship management in that tool, at all.

It's massively inefficient and, so the thinking goes, “if we could become more efficient, maybe we could also become more effective.” So, investment is going into investigating what’s going on, how it works and operates, but there’s this risk to that approach of, "Well, let's revisit that to try and drive a more efficient and effective system.” You could very quickly be talking about process. And process without thinking about experience is a very dangerous place to go. For the last hundred and fifty years healthcare has been optimized for physicians and is really regulated and driven by legal and regulation. Compared to other industries, healthcare is nearly twice as likely to say regulations & compliance limit their innovation in Salesforce.* So what we're seeing is people dabbling, trying to change something by half a degree or one degree.

So, what does it mean to be patient-centric?

You have to be ever evolving on this thing. If you don't have an unrelenting focus on experience, if you don't have someone whose job it is to make sure the metrics are in place, and the systems are in place to be driving the right experience, then you're not focusing on the experience–you're not patient-centric.

How has the marketplace changed for patients, in light of consumer retail’s influence?

There's different channels of care that didn't exist in the past and technology is enabling that. So telemedicine, telehealth- where you can actually go to a little booth and speak with someone virtually, but you won’t know where they are in the country. Or, you can walk into big retailers and they actually have mini clinics in there. But the downside to that, just so we're all aware, is that it's adding more complexity into the system. In the sense of some health insurers do accept virtual visits and some don't. Some will pay out or will have a co-pay for your retail visits, some won't. If, tomorrow, you go for a run and you twist your ankle, do you go to the ER, do you go to urgent care, do you go to specialty care, do you go to a mini clinic, virtual visit, do you go to your primary care? We're adding more and more and more into the system, which is already overly complicated.

How can healthcare players act on this opportunity?

We're now able to bring in technology and retail experiences and augment some things and that's a good thing. At the same time, I don't think we're necessarily addressing the biggest challenge, which is the over complexity, a lack of transparency, and that’s where a platform like Salesforce comes in–that’s actually where the real opportunity is–using enterprise, global systems which actually have optimized amazing customer experiences and provide the right information in front of the right person at the right time. I'm a pretty big fan of how Aetna diversified from their core business, using Health Cloud. Healthcare organizations on Health Cloud are nearly twice as likely to say they provide a cohesive customer experience across sales, service, and marketing.*
 
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*Data from Bluewolf's The State of Salesforce survey. Learn more global Salesforce trends by reading the report

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