Imagine it’s Thanksgiving and you wake up at 2:45 a.m. to your toddler suffering from a fever, nausea, and a rash. You’re visiting relatives in a state far from home. What do you do? There are multiple scenarios, and the most costly, inefficient, and stressful option would be to find a 24-hour urgent care facility or emergency department at the local hospital.
Instead of that scenario, imagine it’s 2:50 a.m., just five minutes later. You open your laptop and sign in to your healthcare marketplace account to log your child’s symptoms. This takes you to your primary care doctor’s 24/7 virtual office for a video consult by 3 a.m., only 15 minutes after you realized your child was sick. You consult with your family care physician, who then video conferences an emergency physician and a dermatologist, who collectively discuss and expertly diagnose the problem and come up with the best treatment plan for your child.
I was fortunate to lead a creative session on an innovative topic at the Vidyo Healthcare Summit’s unconference: “Creating an Open Marketplace for Consumers.” Today, Vidyo’s customers continue to move from fee-based to value-based care, but this shift has challenges and requires heavy investment in innovation. There’s a lot of opportunity to figure out how to monetize health — to invest in proactive healthcare tools and management to create a financial upside. It’s exciting to note that there are technology companies that have already created and are exploring the notion of an open marketplace for healthcare consumers.
Such a marketplace might look and feel like Amazon, where you could shop for your own healthcare or care for your family members based on location and need. Would you sign up and use this marketplace? What impact would it have on the entire healthcare ecosystem? Would access to this marketplace create better patient outcomes or cause unwanted risks — not only for the patient but also for the providers and local facilities?
Large health systems and smaller community hospitals are investing in video-enabled digital patient portals that provide access to patient records, including medical history, medications, and treatment plans, as well as educational tools and discussion forums. Additionally, there are hosts of wellness programs that connect community members to proactive healthcare.
As an example, one of the participants in this discussion is part of a wellness program in Ohio that collaborates with supermarkets, pharmacies, and restaurants to teach healthy shopping and eating habits. The program also provides basic health-monitoring activities like daily blood pressure checks. The result for this attendee is that he is no longer pre-diabetic. He saw a dramatic decrease in blood pressure, lost weight, and developed new lifelong eating habits that are shaping his ongoing healthy lifestyle.
For those who haven’t been seen at a hospital at any point along the care continuum, who aren’t currently proactive with their healthcare, or who aren’t connected to a community hospital investing in these portals or wellness programs, a healthcare marketplace supports the shift to monetize health and drive proactive care and wellness. Marketplace considerations might include:
- Creating awareness: It’s been reported that up to 75% of urgent or emergency care is unnecessary and could have been managed differently*. This awareness could make bed management more efficient for community hospitals and allow more availability for urgent care treatment of appropriate patients.
- Informing consumers about available healthcare options and providers: An online healthcare marketplace, listing providers, by specialty, available for appointment-based, in-person appointments or ad hoc, on-demand video consults, could drive business to a collaborative panel of specialists to manage each patient’s case and create referrals along the appropriate care pathway.
- Supporting self-management of illness not requiring in-person care: Empowering consumers with alerts or calls to action that would prevent deterioration of health or complications to an existing condition. This could decrease readmission rates, which is a growing concern for hospitals and healthcare systems.
- Purchasing products to support wellness: Consider a biometric scale that measures more than weight (water weight, bone mass, muscle density, heart rate) and the psychological and physical impact this might have on a 45-year-old man who lost his father to a heart attack at age 46. A whole host of biometric devices or mobile applications available in one marketplace could potentially drive down overall healthcare costs by streaming information to the appropriate care provider.
Just as Vidyo’s healthcare strategy continues to align with its customers’ telehealth initiatives, telehealth business models will evolve to meet consumer demand, including the demand for affordable, streamlined, and convenient healthcare.
The creation of a healthcare marketplace doesn’t mean the end of days of our talented care providers who work so hard to deliver care to their communities, nor does it increase risk; it means change. A healthcare marketplace creates educated, empowered consumers — either past or future patients — who will help shift the way in which care is delivered. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that we were banking in person at our local branch and carrying around paper files of our health records.
Imagine your loved ones being healthy more days than not. Imagine reading reports on the drop in cancer rates, obesity, diabetes, and mental-health-related disease. Imagine being able to proactively care and advocate for yourself, your children, your aging parent. Imagine one point of access to a wide variety of healthcare providers and tools, literally at your fingertips. Imagine getting care in the right place, by the right provider, at the right time. Imagine a new future.
*Kristi Henderson, VP Virtual Care & Innovation, Ascension Health – Texas. “Telehealth Failures & Secrets to Success.” TFSS Conference 2016