Aloha McBride, EY Global Health Leader.
The world is fast becoming smart — smart cities, cars, utilities and homes are now ubiquitous, and each access intelligent and interconnected data systems. So, we should expect nothing less than health systems that adapt similarly to the modern environment. And following the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to make this a reality.
To step into the future, health care must move beyond simple digital innovation, toward the world of big data and, more specifically, smart technology infrastructures. This will require the global health industry to reorient around health experience and end-to-end care that is personal and empathetic. After all, the most important conversation on the future of health care is not about the shift to digital; it is about people. The focus on individual experiences will ensure health care is catered to peoples’ lives and needs, not the other way around.
How might this play out? In all other areas of digital life, consumers and clinicians alike are accustomed to on-demand and self-directed experiences — businesses in the health sector that deliver similar experiences will be winners and drivers of industry-wide value. The combination of smart health technologies with empathy will be key to transformation (think wearables that monitor health readouts and alert doctors on a patient’s behalf).
Ultimately, this vision aims to improve patient care and clinical experience and provides a path forward for the future of health care that creates better outcomes and lowers costs. Ultimately, there are three main considerations for building a smarter health experience.
1. Shift toward what matters most: the individual.
Seamless digital experiences drive customer loyalty and retention — they are value-adds.
In care, health organizations can create these experiences through a nuanced and subtle focus on continual optimization, thereby ensuring ongoing patient engagement.
Why? Continual optimization aligns consumer needs with the right resources, in the right setting, at the right time. This means listening to consumers and evolving platforms, processes, tools and services to match their needs. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach as health care can often be.
However, to implement a people-forward approach to care there needs to be trust for that change to take hold. Patient-oriented smart technologies earn trust by transforming care delivery in ways that matter most to both consumers and clinicians. For consumers, introducing smarter technology-enabled care pathways makes it easier for them to engage with health prevention, rather than just when sick. They can access care whenever it best suits them, from wherever best suits them. For clinicians, the digitalization and automation of existing processes can lower staff burden and increase clinical productivity by reducing repetitive, low-value tasks, freeing up resources for patient engagement and care.
Improved interactions like these build customer stickiness. In such a highly competitive market, customer stickiness is key, and the depth of engagement will be built upon great experiences.
2. All elements of the ecosystem must work in concert.
As health care becomes smarter, the industry will transition away from siloed workflows and toward a model where all elements of the health care ecosystem work in concert. Health care should have interoperability akin to current digital applications.
To make this possible, expect platforms to arise in conjunction with specific innovations. These platforms will provide support across tasks and insights relevant to clinical encounters. And they are, in fact, already emerging in response to key areas of demand, such as virtual telehealth and specific condition management. Partnerships will also become an important part of the ecosystem and are already underway, bridging the expertise of consumer and technology companies with leading health industry players.
Partnerships and platforms will flourish because a system that works together provides a superior user experience. This superior experience, therefore, drives value to providers. In health care delivery, an integrated system accommodates individual preferences, uplifts the end-to-end experience and connects the care continuum so that patients do not have to. We will have data-driven wellness that will actually be easier to access compared to today.
Though these developments are exciting, it is still important that data security, privacy and ownership are considered. Regulators will need a strong stance on the security of interoperable data, ensuring consumers have control over their health information. Gaining consumer and clinician trust hinges on the validity and integrity of data.
3. Measure consumer centricity to build long-term value.
Technology is not the end-game — it is the enabler. The experience that technology enables ultimately drives better care and drives growth across sectors. And if that experience is not optimized upfront, then brief moments of success are probable where wholesale improvement was possible.
So what do health organizations need to consider? For starters, who funds this experience — the provider, the payer or the consumer? The industry should make sure that payment is not a barrier to quality. And who is building these smart innovations and platforms? A smart system is only as good as those building and supporting it. They must also have a customer-centric mission in mind.
These are only a few of the questions worth asking, and while they are not comprehensive, the conversation these questions start will hopefully lead to better results. The path to optimized health exists through individualized treatments — every patient is different. By asking the right questions, smart technology solutions and a path forward from current modes of care delivery become possible.
The views reflected in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.