What We Think When We’re Led to Think a Certain Way: Wolters Kluwer’s Survey About Healthcare and the American Uninformed

Wolters Kluwer recently released a gem of a survey fit for the bandwagon of health IT topics currently underway.

On its head, the survey results are intriguing and the data does provide some insight into what the American public is thinking when led to think a certain way about a specific topic that, quite frankly, most don’t know much about.

Now, I’m not saying Wolters Kluwer data is flawed. On the contrary, the firm, which makes its living producing qualified data, knows what it’s doing. What I’m implying is that Wolters Kluwer is producing a survey with data collected by an audience that doesn’t truly understand the topic in which it’s responding to.

Let’s dive in and I’ll explain.

According to the survey by the Philadelphia-based company, 80 percent of consumers believe the greater “consumerization” of healthcare – or the trend of individuals taking a greater and more active role in their own healthcare – is positive for Americans.

“Survey data suggests many Americans feel that a greater role in their care is not only good, but necessary, with 86 percent of consumers reporting that they feel they have to take a more proactive role in managing their own healthcare to ensure better quality of care.”

Let’s start here. As a member of the healthcare community, I’ve helped produce similar reports based on surveys I have even helped write, produce, analyze and release to the public. Does that mean my data was a good as Wolters Kluwer? No, not at all.

My point is that there is nothing new here. Nearly every survey of the American public about healthcare tends to suggest that they need to be more involved in their care. All Americans want to take greater control of their car until, seemingly, it’s time to do so.

Even the results suggest that Americans have the information and tools available to them to take on more responsibility.

“Most consumers also say they feel prepared to take on a greater role in managing their own healthcare, with 76 percent reporting that they have the information and tools to take a more proactive role in healthcare decisions ranging from choosing healthcare providers to researching treatment options. Despite feeling prepared, only 19 percent report that they have their own electronic Personal Health Record (PHR).”

Well, there’s the catch. There always something holding people back; no, it’s not the fact that when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road no one is ready to actually start their journey. If only everyone had access to a PHR, everyone would clamor to be more involved in their care.

Certainly, most of us know that this is simply an excuse so no one has to take responsibility for their actions. And, when PHRs are readily available, some other hurdle will keep Americans from moving forward with their engagement.

Finally, of the 1,000 respondents, Wolters Kluwer suggests that a mind boggling 30 percent of Americans want the same experiences with their physicians as they have with other consumer interactions, such as while shopping, traveling or lodging, complete with choices and control.

Here’s where my suspension of disbelief ceases. There’s just no simple to explain this nor is there very much credibility in the statement. The flaw in this piece of detail, in my opinion, is that we’ll never be able to have the same experiences with our physicians as we can with our travel agent or the baker in the local supermarket.

Physicians, after all, develop a much more intimate with their “consumers.” I mean, physicians see us naked and stick us with needles and get a lot closer than the clerk at your local department store. There is simply no way the relationship nor the experience is going to be the same. Which brings me back to my original point: the survey just seems to try to be so much more than it is seemingly as a result of trying to be part of a larger conversation.

But, to mitigate against the risk of you thinking I’m holding out on you, here are the remaining results. Let me know if you agree with my assessment:

According to Wolters Kluwer: “When it comes to choices about physicians, assuming that experience levels and care reputations are similar, consumers rank costs of visits and procedures (20 percent); technologically advanced offices, including the ability to communicate via email with doctors and nurses, schedule appointments online (19 percent); location of practice/office (19 percent) and friendliness of staff (14 percent) as the top four factors influencing their decision.”

Among other findings from the survey:

 

If an EHR Company’s Business Model Can Be Beautiful, Hello Health May Be Hard to Turn Away From

Can a business model be beautiful? Yes, it can, according to Hello Health’s Steve Ferguson, vice president of marketing.

The business model, and the way things get done, at Hello Health are what set it apart from other electronic health records in the market place, Ferguson said.

Hello Health was built from the ground up and launched by the private company Myca in 2008. It made its meaningful use certified EHR available in 2011. The Hello Health system includes everything needed to run a small practice, the area of the ambulatory market in which the company focuses.

Originally designed for single doc practices, the system now scales up, with practices of as many as 10 physicians using it.

At its most basic, Hello Health is a web-based EHR and patient health record, and it’s free to for qualified physicians to use. A qualified practice is typically one with 1,500 active patients on its panel. Unlike Practice Fusion, another well-known free cloud-based electronic health record, it’s not powered by ads, but instead is a revenue source for practices as monthly access subscriptions can be sold to practices’ patients, allowing the patient to access the system’s patient portal, where their personal information is kept.

The patient subscription model allows patients to schedule appointments, view lab results, communicate with their physicians through the HIPAA-compliant portal and, in some cases, view their complete record including visit notes.

Steven Ferguson
Steve Ferguson, vice president of marketing at Hello Health

Those patients that don’t subscribe are still allowed limited access to the portal, but they can’t access all of the information available to them. Cost of monthly subscriptions range between $3 and $10, Ferguson said, but the average is closer to $5.

The annual revenue earned through patient subscriptions is $10,000 per practice, he said, with 30 percent of patients, on average, signing up in each of the practices Hello Health serves. In some cases, more than 50 percent of a practice’s patients have signed up for access to their health information.

Currently, the typical age of a Hello Health subscribing patient is 57 years old and has at least on chronic condition. The “indestructible” 30-something is less likely to subscribe to access to the portal, said Ferguson.

In some cases, patients are able to skip a practice visit or an in-office consult because of their prescription to Hello Health, Ferguson said, and practices are okay with it because they can still bill for the visit.

It’s a simple model, and with the number of portals currently available and the likelihood that access to them will increase alongside meaningful use stage 2, it’s a wonder why other vendors are not creating similar strategies.

“Companies are so in grained in the license model, and on paper it may seem easy to change, but it’s tough to change a business model,” Ferguson said.

Among another key difference between Hello Health and competitor systems is that it doesn’t charge for training and allows as much training as is needed so practice employees are comfortable using the system and are able to educate patients about the value of subscribing to the patient portal.

“Practices really have a partner in Hello Health,” he said. “We take extra time to implement and train employees so they can educate patients to use the systems and better understand the benefits of it.”

Ferguson said Hello Health is experiencing explosive growth, though, would not confirm the number of practices using the system nor the number of patient subscribers because the company is private. However, it is currently available in 27 states, with concentrations of users in New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Georgia and Florida.

The value proposition to physicians is Hello Health’s business model and the fact that it is a revenue driver.

“Our differentiator is our business model,” Ferguson said. “Everyone tries to sell to the physicians, but most physicians are forced to push back because they can’t afford another bill.”

The fact that the system is free to implement and offers unlimited training is also a plus, he said.