What Disruption and Reform in 2015 Indicate for the Future of Healthcare
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Clayton M. Christensen, Richard M.J. Bohmer, and John Kenagy once pondered whether disruptive innovation in healthcare might be the cure for what ailed the industry. Noting that breakthroughs like the telephone and personal computers brought power — and possibilities — to the masses, the authors reasoned, “Indeed, disruptive technologies have been one of the fundamental mechanisms through which the quality of our lives has improved.” Fifteen years later, we’re in the midst of discovering whether the conjecture holds true within the healthcare industry. It is clear that the healthcare industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, but is the future of healthcare looking brighter thanks to disruption and reform?
Digital Disruption Takes Hold in Healthcare
While the HBR article didn’t mention smartphones, mHealth has certainly become a disruptive influence in healthcare. According to the latest data from Pew Research, 66 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, and 19 percent rely on smartphones to access online services and information. And consumers are using digital devices for health-related purposes. The “Pulse of Online Health” survey conducted in January of this year found that 91 percent of consumers search for health information online. In addition, many respondents also use a mobile app for health management, including:
- 46 percent who use a medication reminder app
- 45 percent who track symptoms using an app
- 47 percent who keep an eye on diet/nutrition via an app
- 44 percent who log physical activity with an app
The survey also found that consumers with specific health conditions are even more likely to make use of digital technology for support. For example, 50 percent of patients with pulmonary conditions report using a medication reminder app.
It’s not just smartphones that are changing how consumers engage with healthcare. Wearable device adoption is climbing, and 79 percent of those surveyed report a willingness to use wearable devices to manage health. Clearly, hospitals and other healthcare providers need a digital presence and consumer-friendly tools to engage with healthcare consumers. While most of the uses noted above could happen before a consumer becomes a patient, there are still indications that digital patient engagement could actually improve the whole patient cycle. By using a digital follow-up process, hospitals can keep patients engaged post discharge, gather patient satisfaction feedback and maintain an open line of communication to build trust and loyalty which, the article contends, “pays dividends not only clinically, but financially as well.”
PatientBond offers a unique and powerful system for engaging patients with outbound communications (e.g., emails, texts/SMS, voicemail) integrated with patient feedback capabilities for two-way interactions and intelligent process improvements. It also uses psychographic segmentation to deliver messages to patients based on each patient’s personal motivations and approach to health and wellness. Innovations like PatientBond can be a significant benefit to patient care.
Mental Health Reform Heats Up
The Affordable Care Act addresses mental health coverage, and lately, lawmakers in both the Senate and the House have shown interest in expanding on mental health reforms, in part as a response to a number of high-profile cases of gun violence attributed to individuals with a history of mental illness. Senator Chris Murphy, sponsor of the recently introduced Senate Cassidy-Murphy bill said, “I’m sorry the reason that we’re seriously entertaining it is because these increasing episodes of mass violence, but the reality is, if you have a political opportunity to do something good, you take it.” He also admits trepidation with linking mental health discussions with gun violence because, as he points out, “The reality is more people with mental illness are the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence.”
A second bill, introduced by Representative Tim Murphy, is called “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.” If Congress moves ahead with either bill – or a comprehensive mash-up of the two – it will be the first major legislation to address mental health since it passed the Community Mental Health Act in 1963.
Making Progress in Healthcare’s Transformation
Despite the challenges of implementing health IT and managing on-going regulatory change, hospitals and other healthcare providers are not just moving towards healthcare reform’s Triple Aim, but many are embracing disruptive innovation in healthcare with their own patient engagement initiatives. While the “cure” for healthcare is still being developed, it’s clear that disruptive innovation in healthcare is moving the needle, and indeed is creating an industry that leaves healthcare consumers better off than they were.