The future of healthcare now belongs to Amazon, AmWell, and those health systems that understand that winners and losers will be decided by “touch-the-glass” devices – cellphones and tablets.
I’m reading a lot of articles and hearing several of my clients muttering about people going back to in-patient visits. This recidivism is bonkers. It’s like the smoker who quit for a year, now starting back up again; or your Uncle Al buying 45s to play on his digital record player; or calling that ex that you know you shouldn’t, but you do and you fall back into it again. It’s a big, bad, backward step.
Touch the glass mobile devices will eventually become everyone’s primary access to care. It already is but some of us don’t realize it. Touchscreens will triage, filter and direct patients for the benefit of everyone in the health system – the providers and the patients. Soon, chatbots will evolve into interactive video interviews and the bots will take care of front-office work, like whether you need to come in or not. Systems that have clunky or bad consumer-facing software will sink and those whose software is slick will win.
The big losers will be providers who attempt to drag people to their facilities, just because. Because in an age where five seconds is too long to wait for a webpage to load, those patients are not going to drive and park and walk and wait. They won’t do it. Instead, they’ll touch the glass, some virtual provider will capture their information and that patient will be theirs.
How many steps are too many? I’d say one. Even one step might be too many. We work with New York City Health+Hospitals and they have a virtual consult button on its webpage. You push it and a doctor sees it. That is the future. Amwell and Amazon Health (wholly virtual) and health systems and insurers that are smart at engaging you and capturing you “on the glass” are going to be the winners.
The glass on your screen is never off. Doctor’s offices are often closed. An expert through the glass is just seconds away. It might be an hour in bad traffic to the right physician. The wallpaper in your living room is way nicer than the antiseptic white of the waiting room. There’s nothing wistful about my memories of reading old magazines waiting to see my doctor.
Technology may not yet cure every disease, but it certainly can connect every person to a provider. It’s good at it, it’s reliable and it’s fast. It saves a lot of time, gas and hassle. So it is time to face the future. Even if a patient has a mental impairment or an inability to use a device, it is still likely better for a home health aide to help the patient where they are than have the patient travel to a facility or transport the patient there and back.
If I read another article about how old people don’t understand or can’t use technology, I’m going to throw my dentures at someone. I don’t wear dentures–but my grandfather did when he was my age which was in the 1960’s. I learned to program in the late 70’s when I was 16. My mother – now 80 years old – uses Instagram and Facebook every day without fail, and we Zoom together all the time.
I also can’t stomach reading about the lack of access to healthcare in poorer urban areas. Another customer we work with, MedStar Health, serves a large portion of urban less affluent South East D.C. They assure me that ownership of and use of touch glass or smartphone devices in this part of the City is as high as in North West D.C. because those devices are their “all day every day” and “only” devices that must be connected, and that must run video seamlessly. Their devices are telephones, but they are also payment methods, social tools, a main news source, an entertainment hub, IM, SMS and email machines.
The problem is that a lot of senior managers in healthcare — who touch the glass all day every day — work in systems with billions of dollars that are already invested in buildings and machinery and it is all getting less valuable every day. But it’s so much easier to fight for what you have than to accept that the future is different. How can a hospital CEO recommend to the board that after all these years of adding sponsored wings they now need to reduce their physical footprint and head in a virtual direction? What does that say about all those board meetings and big projects past?
The future of health is now all about software. Not big clunky software systems, but the consumer patient experience that is a focused software of choice and convenience. Software with a slice of intelligence, software with a dash of human factors engineering.
My company, Bluestream Health, has been building complicated software which makes it easy for patients to touch the glass and get seen by a provider. We help health systems route and handle more patients to generate more revenue. Maybe we’ll be winners too, then again maybe others will outpace us but I guarantee you that the winners in health care will be those who best help consumers touch the glass.