By Robert E. Grant
At this year’s HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference, which explores, shares and promotes the best use of information technology and management systems in the U.S. healthcare industry, more than 40,000 health IT professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Among key industry trends taking center stage, attendees, exhibitors and presenters focused on finding ways to succeed in emerging value-based care models and patient engagement. And it’s about time. With the current model based on fees for services and prioritizing insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies first, patients continue to find themselves at the bottom of a soaring $3.4 trillion industry.
With the U.S. spending more on healthcare than any other country in the world at $10,348 per person—which amounts to nearly 18 percent of gross domestic product—it is indisputable that patients continue to pay more while receiving less. In addition to an increasing number of post-mortem reports highlighting this troubling predicament, Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care released by the Commonwealth Fund puts into harsh perspective just how far America’s healthcare system has plummeted.
Rather than leading the world, the U.S. has fallen to last place on a list of the top 11 countries with similar high-income populations, scoring poorly in nearly every category, including administrative efficiency and healthcare outcomes, and reinforcing the notion that high spend is no guarantee for high quality.
A Deadly Waiting Game
Even as Americans come to terms with and resign to healthcare costs that have reached an all-time high, it still takes, on average, 50 percent longer to see a family medicine doctor and 30 percent longer (24 days or more) for a patient to get an appointment with a new doctor in comparison to just three years ago, according to a 2017 Merritt Hawkins survey. With the present deadly flu season, which began in October 2017 and has claimed the lives of 119 children as of March 2018, the waiting game has become a matter of life and death.
Undoubtedly, the healthcare mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) epidemic that in 2017 accounted for $723.7 billion in deals out of the global $5 trillion M&A total for all industries has contributed significantly in preventing doctors from delivering the care patients need and deserve. So, too, have ever-changing government regulations and higher-premium insurance policies with high deductibles, cumbersome prior-authorization requirements and unreasonably limited coverage. Either way, there is a dire need for change, and one that places the ultimate consumer—the patient—at the forefront, particularly as on-demand applications create a growing population of on-demand consumers.
Adapting to an On-Demand Society
In order to meet critical patient expectations, the healthcare industry must strive to deliver the same kind of consumer-centric experience that retail, real estate, utilities and travel sectors have successfully achieved. Yet, up until now, no technology has been able to offer the features and tools patients value most. Consider the recent research findings released at HIMSS 2018 by NTT DATA Services, a recognized leader in global technology services that surveyed 1,000 patients. In addition to a majority (59 percent) revealing their desire for doctors and care facilities to use advanced digital technologies to improve the overall patient experience, 81 percent expressed a need for a faster and easier way to search for a doctor or a specialist, while 79 percent hoped new technology would improve the process of making or changing an appointment.
Like retail, real estate, utilities and travel, healthcare is changing at rapid speed, with digital tools fast becoming the favorite in the race to transform an ailing healthcare system. Simplifying everything from filling out paperwork to visiting a doctor—with minimal to no wait times—new mobile technologies are offering a promising cure that not only puts consumers at the center of the healthcare experience but also holds the key in enabling doctors to practice to their highest potential. By prioritizing patients first in a multi-trillion-dollar industry, America will eventually return to its rightful place as a pioneer in advancing the health and wellness of every individual on the planet.
Robert E. Grant is founder and chief executive officer of CONCIERGE KEY Health, the first mobile app that provides on-demand access to elite physician specialists, urgent care clinics and hospitals nationwide. An entrepreneur, inventor and investor, he has played a pivotal role for more than 20 years in successful technology and business development in pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare markets.