January 17, 2020

Three Ways Healthcare is Doubling Down to Meet Patient Expectations in 2020

By Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, SVP of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Salesforce

 

Today’s patients expect a higher level of engagement and experience from their healthcare providers than ever before. According to a recent Salesforce survey, 83% of healthcare consumers say it is important that providers know them personally beyond their medical records, and 68% expect engagement in real time. More than 8 in 10 patients say they would switch providers as a result of a single bad experience. 

In part, this is due to the seamless, personalized experiences consumers enjoy in most other facets of life, from shopping to hospitality. The widespread availability of medical information online has also made patients more informed and proactive about their health than ever. There is increased market consolidation across all segments of healthcare and life sciences as organizations strive to be more effective at driving greater consumer (e.g. patient, member, provider) experience, broadening capabilities and services at scale.

Heading into 2020, the healthcare industry is uniquely positioned to push ahead in meeting these growing demands. From electronic health records (EHRs) to diagnostic imaging, the industry has digitized vast arrays of data that can now be used to track care. With relationship management platforms, providers and insurers as well as pharmaceutical and medical device companies, can combine multiple, traditionally disparate sources of data to gain a 360-view of patient preferences and behaviors, while offering improved experiences and better engagement. The ability of health information systems to work together beyond departmental and organizational boundaries has advanced to the point that interoperability is a reality. Digitization of data has also given us a better understanding of the multiple determinants of health in ways that can drive care forward. And patients have quickly become informed advocates around data ownership, driving a conversation that will help define healthcare technology over the next decade.  

Here are three trends the healthcare industry will double down on in 2020: 

1. More personalized experiences for patients will come to fruition. 

In recent years, the healthcare industry has made strides in operationalizing patient-centricity, and a focus on providing personalized experiences and treatment will continue into the new decade. Troves of digitized data, and the increasing ability to unify and analyze it, will help healthcare move toward the kind of consumer engagement that industries like retail and hospitality have been delivering. Patient-centricity will drive everything from interactions with providers to tailored access to care to interventions for medication adherence. Part of personalized treatment will be new developments in precision medicine, which uses data and algorithms to suggest targeted therapies for patients. For example, with genetic tests for guiding treatment, decisions becoming increasingly available and providers can now tailor treatment depending on how different patients respond to medications. 

But delivering personalized healthcare is a lot more complex than offering shopping recommendations. Before a wider shift toward precision medicine can take place, the industry will need to have nuanced conversations about data privacy and ownership. Transparency around data utilization will come to the fore, not only for building trust among patients and doctors, but also in light of regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, not to mention rules specific to the healthcare sector, such as CMS’s recent Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule. The industry will need to examine what it means for patients to own their data and how organizations can ethically use private information, in a conversation that includes both patients and regulators. Discussions about how new technologies and personalization can be built on a foundation of trust will reach a new pitch in 2020. 

2. Healthcare consumerism will continue to drive new business and delivery models.

Health systems and providers will respond to the rise in patient consumerism by looking for ways to provide care when and where patients need it. This means rethinking business models and delivery systems in order to craft exceptional consumer experiences. One manifestation of this is that care will increasingly take place beyond the four walls of the hospital, largely enabled by new digital technologies. This includes expanded access to telehealth services, in-home healthcare and digital therapeutics, in which a doctor can monitor indicators like glucose levels remotely and deliver interventions as needed.  

Payers and providers have historically operated in silos, with patients visiting doctors and insurers approving or denying claims on the back end. With the level of data now available, there is a real opportunity for payers and providers to partner to make patient care more effective and cost-efficient than ever before. This can take the form of partnerships between hospitals and insurers to provide higher quality care. Or it can be the result of new business models in which insurance companies merge with providers (like insurer Humana’s acquisition of Kindred Healthcare) or healthcare providers purchasing insurers (like CVS’s acquisition of Aetna). 

Companies outside of the healthcare industry have also begun joining forces with traditional players to improve access to care. For example, ride-sharing app Uber has announced plans to link up with healthcare IT company Cerner Corp. to let health providers schedule non-emergency rides for patients, while Lyft is providing Medicaid-covered rides for beneficiaries in six states. Retailers like Walmart and Walgreens have opened up clinics at locations around the country. Innovative partnerships and strategies like these will proliferate in 2020 with the ultimate goal of addressing patient needs, bridging access gaps and improving outcomes. 

3. Artificial intelligence will tackle more real-world use cases. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare will increasingly move from the realm of theory to real-world use cases. Providers are already beginning to use machine learning tools to aid in diagnosis. For example, algorithms are helping identify everything from tumors to brain hemorrhages in radiological images. One study involving breast cancer screening found that AI nearly doubled accuracy while reducing the time to review images by more than 35%. And in 2018, the FDA approved a fully automated AI tool that diagnosed diabetic retinopathy, a debilitating but treatable disease, with 87% accuracy.  

Going forward, providers will increasingly rely on AI tools to augment clinical decisions and recommend the next best action. Algorithms will get better and better at diving into clinical data and analyzing characteristics that suggest a patient is at higher risk for a particular complication or could benefit from a particular treatment. AI also has the potential to transform nonclinical aspects of healthcare that contribute to huge administrative costs, such as billing and coding, credentialing and scheduling. These applications are still in their early stages but will increasingly be used to streamline processes. Futurists talk about how AI can find cures for terminal diseases, and maybe someday it will. But it also has the potential to improve outcomes for patients and make healthcare more cost-effective in the near term. 

Patients today want personalized, real-time engagement throughout their interactions with providers and insurers. As a new decade unfolds, the healthcare industry is finally poised to rise to these expectations. Deploying data and emerging technologies, along with new business and delivery models, can help deliver personalized care and improve outcomes while driving down costs. As the industry continues to innovate and transform, it is vital that patient rights remain at the center of the conversation.