- Posted by Victor Morrison
- On September 18, 2013
- Healthcare Technology, Patient Experience
This week, the 8th Annual National Health IT Week kicked off with a lot of fanfare, debate and conversation, all with the purpose of raising awareness of the ways health IT can help solve important issues in the U.S. healthcare system.
Farzad Mostashari, with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), started the week off in the right direction, posing a set of thought-provoking questions including: Do we have new tools and approaches? Do we have the oxygen for those new tools and information and data that will be available? Will providers be supportive? will patients even know to ask or to care?
Far-and-beyond, the focus has been on identifying areas where there is unreached potential for health information technology to impact our healthcare system. As part of the chatter, everyone is talking about the potential of everything from mobile apps to predictive analytic tools to patient engagement systems for transforming how care is delivered in the future. We’re excited to see such a widespread level of innovation beginning to hit the healthcare sector.
The biggest theme, however, has been centered around how healthcare is shifting to become a consumer-driven business, which we’re incredibly excited to see. Everyone in the industry is trying to own the customer relationship right now. It’s an exciting time.
As that shift takes place, however, the two key components that still need to get straightened out on the technology-vendor side are trust and engagement. Without these two fundamentals, customers won’t have a channel they actually want to use.
Inspired by Mostashari, we wanted to pose one more question: In today’s changing healthcare market, what can health IT vendors not afford to ignore?
Here are our answers on the three key advances that we believe need to happen if consumer-driven healthcare is to truly happen.
#1 — Remarkable Customer Service
The healthcare industry doesn’t have the greatest track record for providing amazing customer service. Just the cost of care alone is very high, and with billions of people in need of care in the U.S. alone, following the “customer is always right” line of thinking has never had to be priority for the majority of healthcare organizations, including payers, providers, pharma and government agencies.
However, all of that is soon changing. Consumers are taking back control of their health, and by doing so, demanding access to customer-service and support channels that can answer their critical questions — which in the healthcare industry, are many.
Providing truly great customer service has never been more paramount in an industry where you’re helping people with things like managing their chronic illness, reminding them to take their medication and coaching them through post-surgical care.
#2 — Trusted and Secure Health Vendors
In a time when every other headline is about data privacy failures and hacking of personal information, data security is a big deal. And the appropriate protections have become more than just a checkbox given PRISM.
The truth is we all want the opportunities, without the risks — in health and in life. Health IT vendors have a challenge ahead of them because we’ll all need to have sufficiently fortressed the data we hold, as everyone’s health information gets electronically recorded.
Without HIPAA compliance and world-class data centers that meet or exceed healthcare standards, we won’t be able gain the trust of the consumer.
The good news is that enterprise companies have been tasked with meeting this bar for many years and know what it takes. The mission is the same for healthcare companies, even if the stakes are higher. That’s the point.
#3 — Available At-home Health Care
The market opportunity for health IT spending is huge. Right now, it’s reported that spending has reached $40 billion a year and is expected to hit almost $60 billion by 2017. When you factor in the Affordable Care Act and the explosive growth of mobile, we’re still just scratching the surface of how pervasive new forms of health IT technology can be at every level of the health system.
A new environment where we’re going to start managing more of our health care is the home. As this MIT Technology Review article suggests, remote care is going to be a huge part of healthcare moving forward.
Healthcare facilities are crowded, doctors are in limited supply to meet the demand and, most importantly, healthcare costs have skyrocketed. Health IT vendors are increasingly going to be called on to deliver at-home services for patients.
At Next IT, we’re focusing on each of these areas and have made it our mission to incorporate them into every area of our platform, Alme. To demonstrate this, we’ve already won the trust of Aetna, one of the leading health insurance providers that we’re proud to call a client.
And although the future of health IT won’t be decided this week alone, we’re excited and thrilled to see companies, government agencies and individuals participating in the conversation from all over the nation.
What we are doing today is building the future of consumer-driven health, which is just around the corner. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to take part in the conversation this week.
Share your thoughts on the future of health IT with us on Twitter at @Next_IT and follow the National Health IT Week conversation at the hashtag #NHITWeek.