Who Will Become The Cyber Don Quixote for Healthcare Consumers?

Ron Wince

Guest post by Ron Wince, president and CEO, Peppers & Rogers Group.

In the new healthcare ecosystem that is increasingly migrating to cyberspace, who can healthcare consumers rely on? Who in the healthcare service supply chain will prevail? Who will be the next Amazon or Yelp? Chances are it will be the organization that can deliver and mediate a centralized consumer experience – connecting healthcare consumers not only with care and treatment options, but also with pharmacists, labs, therapists, clinics, wellness coaches and other resources along the care chain.

More today than ever before as the care conundrum continues, fewer and fewer crave office visits, hospital stays or trying to reach physicians by phone. When we’re well, we see no reason to visit a physician. When we’re sick we increasingly wait until we’re sicker. And when we’re somewhere in between, we avoid calling because we know we’ll be put on hold. If there were a better way to consume healthcare, most of us would likely take it.

Interestingly, within this conundrum lies an opportunity for the myriad of healthcare players – from payers and providers at one end of the supply chain to wellness tacticians, retailers and mobile tool providers at the other end – to create a sustainable dialogue with healthcare consumers.

And don’t be so sure the winner will be the two large elephants in the room … the payer or provider. Weight Watchers, for example, offers a mobile app to help people count calories, manage meals, track their exercise and control their weight. Ultimately, that blend of technology and a high comfort level in the B2C market could make Weight Watchers or an enterprise like it a destination for healthcare consumers in search of a coach to help navigate the thickets of the Affordable Care Act.

By all accounts, global smartphone sales are expected to reach 1.5 billion units by 2016. Indeed, social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technology is exploding just as the Affordable Care Act kicks in. And let’s not forget, tomorrow’s smart phone will be smarter than today’s. What will it mean for healthcare providers, consumers and payers? For starters, improved wellness, connectivity and diagnostics. Inherent in this digital ecosystem will also be better access to electronic medical records. Physicians want it: in a Black Book Rankings physician survey, 83 percent said they would use mobile EHR apps when more options become available.

And patients want it too. Kaiser Permanente recently launched an app that makes its entire electronic health care system available to all 9 million members. So far, it has generated nearly 100,000 downloads. Kaiser patients now use their smart phones to make appointments as well as renew prescriptions and check on lab tests.

Take a moment and think about how we use our smart phones. When an app like Kaiser’s becomes widely available – and it will – what smart phone user won’t welcome it? How many will prefer to wait on hold on a landline, tethered to a cord or to the confines of their home or office?

Electronic records are just the tip of the iceberg. The market for mobile health apps is expected to quadruple to $400 million by 2016, according to ABI Research – and it looks as though government regulations won’t get in the way.

Full speed ahead

The FDA has issued final guidance for mobile medical application developers, promising limited regulation for most health and wellness apps while applying risk-based standards to diagnostic and quasi-medical apps. According to an FDA media release, the agency will exercise “enforcement discretion” for most healthcare apps “as they pose minimal risk to consumers.” These include apps that help patients self-manage their disease or conditions “without providing specific treatment or treatment suggestions,” such as for tracking exercise and diet, automating health tasks or communicating with providers via EHRs.

This opens the door for enterprises like Weight Watchers to take a leading role in optimizing the healthcare consumer experience.

The SMAC platform puts a record number of healthcare consumers in direct contact with providers.  The key question is: Which provider will create the optimum experience, seamlessly connecting individual consumers with numerous points along the supply chain?

Here are five areas where entrepreneurs – not necessarily hospital systems or insurers – are improving healthcare delivery: 

The first enterprise to put all of this together – connecting millions of consumers to high quality service and care – will win the race.  Thanks to SMAC, today’s explosion of digital healthcare apps is merely a first wave. As technology advances, consumer-centric enterprises across the healthcare spectrum will improve the provider-consumer connection, leading to lower costs and better clinical outcomes … and increased reliance and loyalty.

Ron Wince is the president of Peppers & Rogers Group, a management consulting firm recognized as the world’s leading authority on customer-based business strategy. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the firm is dedicated to helping companies grow the value of their business by growing the value of their customer base. Combining strategy, business process and analytical capabilities, the firm designs and implements customer experience programs.


7 comments on “Who Will Become The Cyber Don Quixote for Healthcare Consumers?”

Great post, Ron!!! It all makes sense, especially about how data managers will be big players in the healthcare space; really intriguing.

Excellent article…. Not sure if it’ll be just one enterprise or perhaps 6 or 7 that’ll end up playing nicely in the sandbox together. If the Banks, Airlines and various other industries can make sharing detailed information work then surely healthcare will get there (hopefully sooner rather than later). There has been some interesting movement from the major EHR vendors in the HIE world recently but of course they’ll all be looking at market share and how they can make money out of it.

Great discussion indeed. With already a few dozen start-ups and first-stage players in the space we’ll no doubt see more, and numerous failures, and waves of consolidation. And it’s anyone’s guess, but Shane is probably right that there will be more than one mega-enterprise rising in the evolution. And as Ron predicts, ‘meaningful use’ in the area will probably gain huge momentum and mass in ~ 2016. Very exciting!

Excellent article! It puts together features that will be required for a successful platform. It is my belief that such a platform will require a patient-centric database capable of capturing and storing a wide range of data; structured, unstructured, from mobile devices and from patients in addition to providers. This data must be available in real time, exposed through a RESTful API so that access can be made from almost anywhere. Of course this exposure must be managed through access rules dictated by the patient and secured to the highest degree. From such a platform, an eco-system of services can be built to provide the varied needs of patients. It also becomes the platform from which providers and payers can build systems of best practices and cost control. An ACO, in this case, becomes just a view into the patient data for cost analytics and a means to control treatment through ACO-defined best practices in say the CDS.
It is easy to imagine what, as yet unknown, patient services will be developed with this common access to patient data. This was the promise of HIEs, but they are a flawed model, built on the past. The new healthcare system should be built from the patient out.

Healtheon is but one of the few names of companies that thought they would “provide” the next IT fix for healthcare. Does anyone remember Healtheon or any of the other well funded companies that were going to save the health care consumer? Nope.

The problem is not not exclusively a technology issue…but rather an organization, service delivery and communication challenge.

And interesting company, Avado, might be one. To Ron’s opening, Avado uses the catch phrase that Avado is the Mint of healthcare as Mint is to the financial services market. They have gone silent due to being acquired by WebMD, but prior to that I was very impressed at the info on their software and patient/provider interaction model. There are a couple videos on YouTube that talk to their business. One of the founders, Dave Chase, talks a little about their ideas in this nine minute talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZUNNQ8Glwk check some of the others to get a bit deeper, they used to have some presentations showing more detail, but think they took them down as part of the WebMD hook up.

SMAC ’em with these new online tools, I dig it! Super post Ron!

Disclosure: I have no financial or connection with WebMD or Avado.

Dave Proffer

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