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  • Rebecca Anderson

Blog: The Role of Technology in Patient Care: Industry Experts Weigh In

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

(Written for Grayduck Health)

In this era of healthcare consumerism, it seems there is often no difference in how we shop for cancer treatments and kitchen towels. Unfortunately, the quality of online information isn’t sufficient to support the gravity of healthcare decisions. So what can we do to bridge the gap?

For insights, we chatted with two industry experts: Phil Smith, Managing Director at Duff and Phelps, and Jeff Evanson, Chief Commercial Officer at Outlook Therapeutics. Read on to learn what they had to say about disruptive technology, improving educational content, and nurturing the care pathway with patient engagement technology.

Disruptive innovations in healthcare

According to Jeff, advancements in virtual diagnosis and prescription fulfillment mark some of the most significant disruptions in healthcare. “Those are models. They have been created. They are being deployed. There are challenges with them … but that’s just transformational,” Jeff said. “You don’t have to go to the doctor. You can do things with technology that you have in your own home … You can just download an app.” Innovations like telemedicine can play a role both during a pandemic like COVID-19, well visits, and follow-up care.

The drive towards a better patient experience is blurring boundaries between healthcare and consumer. A notable example of this is how Warby Parker completely disrupted eye care.

“My children — as they are growing up — they won’t think of glasses and physicians. Those two don’t go together,” said Phil. “To them, glasses are a consumer product.”

While the eyewear evolution has spanned decades, future disruptions might be even quicker. The FDA has cleared the way for OTC hearing aids with guidelines expected later this year. The availability of OTC options is expected to reduce the price and eliminate the appointments associated with purchasing a hearing aid — allowing consumers to take control of their health.

Connecting healthcare consumers with the right care

There are challenges with OTC hearing aids and other self-serve healthcare items, however. How does a patient choose the right product to meet their needs? How do they optimize their use? Chances are, these people will turn to the internet for health-related information — 80% of Internet users do — but will they find the right information?

At this point, Jeff thinks it’s highly unlikely. “Doing a Google search on anything medical — it’s a mess what comes up. Who’s sponsoring ads. Even publications. There’s an opportunity there. There’s an ecosystem that needs to be built.”

After using the internet to self-diagnose, 35% of people do not seek professional care. And, among those who make an appointment, about half of people will learn that their physician has a different explanation for their symptoms.

The question becomes: What can we do to educate patients and ensure that they take the right actions to ensure optimal wellness?

Patient education and patient engagement

While engagement is a relatively new concept in healthcare, it’s not in consumer brand management. “It’s decades and decades old,” said Phil.

“Patient engagement plays itself out in numerous ways,” said Phil. “Whether it’s products, devices, services, medications, what have you, the consumerism of healthcare is one of the biggest themes … that is driving our business.”

The good news is that some healthcare and medical device companies are stepping up to fill the need. Take Mayo Clinic, for example — they are building their brand and creating awareness with the over 7,500 videos on their YouTube channel.

Jeff applauds this different approach to reaching patients. As a single patient, it would be a challenge to make a same-day appointment with one specialist, but through the Mayo YouTube channel, you can gain insights from the entire team. When it comes to data, Jeff believes, “There’s so much power in accessibility.”

Phil called out United Healthcare and Medtronic as two additional brands that are creating a consumer-level experience with patient journeys that provide steady streams of branded information to educate patients and engage them in their healthcare outcomes.

Ongoing content is especially helpful for chronic conditions such as pain, bladder control issues, diabetes, and hearing loss as these patients are more likely to get sidetracked on the patient pathway. And, of course, there’s the matter of cost.

“Acute healthcare costs are nothing compared to the significant chronic diseases,” said Phil. According to the CDD, 90% of healthcare costs are associated with the treatment of chronic and mental health conditions.

“How do we help navigate them through what they need — medications, care, whatever it is — in their home or ... lower-cost setting,” Phil said. “There’s a huge opportunity there.“

Using patient engagement technology for disease prevention and management

Keeping patients on the treatment pathway is one thing. But is there an opportunity for healthcare and medical device leaders to use technology in disease prevention and control?

To put it bluntly, Phil said, “We’re getting older, sicker. The system is going to break if we don’t innovate.”

But Phil stresses that innovation isn’t just about cool, groundbreaking technology. “You have to improve quality — in terms of better outcomes — and lower costs,” he said.

“Prevention part is very fascinating because that’s where you bring in technology like AI,” Jeff said, highlighting the power of predictive modeling based on behavior.

For example, insights gleaned from AI or machine learning could be applied to conditions such as depression that require ongoing attention for optimal wellness. Imagine if a doctor received an alert when a patient had an episode that indicated that intervention was needed.

“Companies can make significant investments in preventive care, knowing that there will be long-term savings in the reduction of comorbidities, in maximizing wellness,” Jeff said.

Jeff notes that big brands like Google and Microsoft are very interested in supporting the patient’s journey toward treatment. “They want to figure out the step before [diagnosis] because that’s changing the game. It’s not just about a doc prescribing therapy for a problem. But how do you get ahead,” he said. “What’s the prevention part? How do you learn?”

Phil echoed, “We need a healthcare system that’s focused on wellness, not on sickness.”

How will you use technology to connect with patients?

Technology has changed healthcare, putting the power into patients’ hands. Robust and impartial data is essential to help patients — especially those with chronic conditions — make the right choices, engage with their health, and feel empowered to elevate their care needs.

ReadyPath patient activation technology can help you connect with patients through care pathway automation and provide a personalized content journey across channels such as email, text messages, inbound, or outbound calls, and direct mail.

Contact us to learn more about our ReadyPath technology and other marketing services that can help you empower patients to make more informed decisions about their healthcare.

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