Changing Expectations Coming to Health

Expectations

I’ve been skeptical of the consumer wave coming to healthcare. I’m doubtful that consumers will adopt — independently of providers — modern digital health tools (apps, messaging services, etc.) at a scale and in a way that will drive the mass adoption of these services into mainstream healthcare. But now I’m starting to break on my stance on consumer-driven digital health. It’s not because I think most people are going to adopt digital health tools on their own, but because I think they’ll demand them as part of the offerings of providers.

Consumers have come to expect a certain experience for services outside of healthcare. They want better and cheaper banking and credit options, which is why Mint is successful. They want a better way to learn, especially without committing to four years at an expensive university with a competitive application process, which is why thousands of people register for courses on Coursera and millions listen to Khan Academy lessons. They expect to be able to sit down at a computer for a few hours, be guided through simple questionnaires, and automatically submit their tax returns to the IRS, which is why TurboTax is awesome and only gets better every year. They increasingly expect to be able to find and buy products at any time from any place and Amazon provides that.

You could use these examples in other areas as well, such booking a dinner reservation or a flight online. As other industries foster these expectations from consumers, services like ZocDoc emerge that give people the same convenience when scheduling healthcare appointments. Another recent and relevant example is HealthCare.gov, which may indicate that HHS and the industry underestimate the willingness and desire of the general public for convenience and transparency.

HeathCare.gov is a good example for another reason. Its overwhelming demand was driven by what people consider a legitimate (albeit less than stellar) backer — HHS and the government. HealthCare.gov isn’t the product of a startup (it would have been cheaper if so.) HealthCare.gov isn’t the product of a private payer or a pharma company. That legitimacy made HealthCare.gov a smashing success, at least based on the amount of interest and demand from the general public at its launch.

A major lesson of HealthCare.gov isn’t, “If you build it, they will come,” but spending time with consumers, looking at what services early adopters use related to health and wellness, and trying integrate those activities into provider offerings. Look outside of healthcare at other industries like education and hospitality to see the types of apps and services that are offered and used. Or, just look at your own phone and see what you expect from other sectors.

In healthcare, it might be interactive Q&A. It’s certainly appointment scheduling and messaging. It’s probably some form of virtual visit. It may be something financial as long as it has an immediate impact on a consumer’s wallet.

I’ve always believed in the power of digital health tools even though I’ve been skeptical about consumers driving their widespread adoption. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that consumers will expect the tools from providers even if they don’t demand and use them independently. Digital health and especially mobile tools will become a massive part of healthcare, driven not only by adoption, but  expectations that consumers will bring from other sectors.

TGphoto

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

  • Mobile Man

    Amen. Consumers “pull” what they want (eventually). Pushing doesn’t work well nowadays… Those that can’t adapt are left silo’d and often put on the road to irrelevance…

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