The one trend that matters for every health care leader

Whether payer, provider, drug or device manufacturer or health IT vendor, there’s one trend that should be front and center to stakeholders across the health care industry.  The health care user is at the center of it all.

Consider the following.

  • Insurers are remaking their businesses to put consumers first: The passage of the Affordable Care Act marked a new era in health care in more ways than one. Health insurers accustomed to working with businesses were suddenly faced with marketing directly to consumers … and with the task of educating people on how to choose and manage health coverage. This sparked an entire movement meant to reshape health coverage around consumers, encompassing components like analytics to better understand consumers, omnichannel outreach (including face-to-face) to better serve them and customer experience officers to oversee it all. This movement continues today.
  • Health care providers are focused on care and the patient experience: Increasing emphasis on the triple aim of health care has added a new dimension to the work of hospital leaders, doctors, nurses and other clinicians whose primary concern has largely – and rightly – been medical outcomes. Rates of readmission and compliance with screening recommendations are paramount. But so are factors like access to appointments and information, short wait times and other patient satisfaction metrics. This focus on the experience of patients is forcing improvements at practices, hospitals and across health systems. It’s transforming decision making by practice managers, IT teams and more. And it has brought consumer research as well as trends like design thinking and even ambient enhancements like essential oils, green space and mood lighting into care settings. 
  • Health IT professionals are using analytics to personalize touchpoints and optimize care: As patients seek easier access to medical care, mobile health technology, telemedicine and other tools for connecting patients with health care providers, insurers and researchers are more important than ever.  In addition, tech teams are being asked to support medical, marketing and other departments with information that lets them optimize and customize connections and care decisions for the best possible outcomes. Artificial intelligence is being explored and debated in many areas, including for clinical decision making. In short, nearly every important innovation in health care has an IT component, and that component is often designed to personalize, customize and optimize touchpoints.
  • Life sciences leaders aim to harness precision medicine to tailor treatments: Whether it’s chemotherapy selected based on the genetic fingerprint of a given patient’s tumor or a personalized dosage for those whose liver profiles complicate metabolism of certain medications, precision medicine holds promise for addressing two persistent and problematic challenges in health care: Efficacy and soaring costs. If precision medicine delivers, supporters say it will ensure far more effective treatments and far less waste on care that doesn’t work. It will bring the “right care, right place, right time” adage down to the individual patient level -- an astounding level of exactitude in a health care system that treats millions of Americans every day.
  • Data at the heart of it all: There’s another common thread here to all of these trends, and that’s data.  It’s no wonder that health care execs across the US have both sought to partner with, and braced for repercussions from, the titans of tech. Whether consumer/patient centricity or precision medicine, these movements rely on an ability to capture, understand and apply information about consumers at granular levels. Data and the analytics to make sense of it are essential.

It’s all about consumers

Whatever your role in health care, and however you see your organization’s place in shaping the care of tomorrow, it’s clear that the recipients of health care should be top of mind, all the time. Health care gets a lot of flak for being late to this party, but this is a major shift, and as defenders of the old ways often note, the industry is heavily regulated.

There are also challenges and tough questions: Will the cost of precision medicine outweigh the benefit? Can consumers really better manage their health if they understand and engage with their insurer? Is the focus on patient satisfaction detracting from outcomes and overwhelming already overworked clinicians?

Answers will take time to take shape, and optimization will surely require further innovation. But there are pockets of success, and it’s clear those are expanding to constitute an entire movement. Health care and life sciences companies that get on board now will rapidly become its leaders.