Healthcare Logs On. Finally.

health-information-technology-salaryChange is afoot in the healthcare system. Big change. Monumental change. Once-in-a-lifetime change. Brought to you by your neighborhood hospital.

No, I’m not talking about ACA, EMRs, PCMH, ACOs, or any other in-vogue healthcare acronyms. I’m talking about real change in the way healthcare is delivered. Connecting patients and doctors more efficiently and conveniently than ever to before.

It’s not entirely unexpected, given the fact that most other industries (retail, financial, travel) cannot exist without online services, but healthcare is about to catch up. Even with uncertainty around Obamacare, most believe that widespread healthcare reform is imminent, not just a coin-flip possibility. With reform in place, hospital systems and delivery networks are rethinking their business models, and examining the potential to disrupt their industry.

What they’re finding is that reform doesn’t just have to be strictly a cost-cutting exercise. It’s a unique opportunity to change the ownership of healthcare, actively manage the cost of care, treat whole patients, and get a leg up on the competition in the process. But disruption requires true innovation.

This self-realization has kick-started hospital systems’ interest in technologies like telehealth that had been relegated to innovation labs. And while we’ve been in discussions with hospital systems for years, the flood gates are wide open. During this time we’ve seen enormous growth in the number of hospital systems inquiring about our services. In fact, hospital inquiries have literally eclipsed all other target audiences combined.

So, what’s behind this rapid change that’s making health systems come out of the woodwork? There are a number of factors fueling this sudden and extreme momentum.

Strategic directives

  1. Hospital systems as payers: And why not? With ACOs and narrow networks, they’re starting to absorb risk, they may as well reap the rewards.
  2. Employers as customers: Hospitals aren’t strangers to selling services to employers (e.g., work-site clinics). But as the industry changes, and progressive concepts likeconsumer transparency tools and narrow networks take hold, hospitals see significant potential for direct-to-employer services. And there are no bigger pushers of telehealth than employers.
  3. With consumerism, brand matters: In a consumer-driven market, local presence and reputation will be hypercritical. A defining and differentiating service is a huge benefit when driving brand loyalty. Conversely, lacking such a benefit could be a death knell.

Market forces

  1. Convenient care penetration: Retail and urgent care clinics are starting to take hold… and are stealing primary, acute care service market share. It’s high-time for hospitals to fight back with the ultimate convenient, low-cost form of care.
  2. The reimbursement flood gates have been compromised: Reimbursement is nearly always cited as Public Enemy #1 to widespread telehealth adoption. With the reimbursement and regulatory landscapes evolving at break-neck speed over the past 18 months, this barrier will soon be no more than a distant memory. You don’t need Watson to pencil the ROI.
  3. Consumer demand is at a breaking point: As phone calls to practices have ballooned in recent years, many reports have identified, consumers are chomping at the bit for convenient, efficient access to care. 7 in 10 patients would preferinteracting with doctors online, rather than in-person. And this market is in its infancy. By comparison, in mature markets, there’s an 80% acceptance of retail care. And this is more than a decade in the making.
  4. Online medical care is already happening: Manhattan reported this year that nearly40% doctors already communicate with patients electronically, even in the absence of broadly-available HIPAA-compliant solutions and reimbursement.

Technological Advancements

  1. Telehealth that delivers real healthcare to everyone: Telehealth has long been maligned as either extremely high-tech, high cost or low-tech, low-value. The pervasiveness of “telemedicine carts” and telephone and email hurt the industry’s credibility to deliver meaningful care. That’s why American Well has always strived to deliver real healthcare through ubiquitous consumer technologies. It’s not just video chat – and certainly not all about the telephone. It’s about creating a real, informed, clinically-contextualized healthcare experience for the patient and doctor.
  2. Broadband access: No doubt, widespread access to high-speed internet is critical. And with a race to 4G by all of the major wireless providers, and disruption happening by the likes of Google, truly nationwide access is right around the corner.
  3. Smartphones and tablets: It’s no big secret that mobile devices are changing the world. But the opportunity to allow devices to connect doctors and patients via high-def video is still unique, and just now on the verge of revolutionizing healthcare. The pervasiveness of these devices among all socio-economic groups will revolutionize healthcare universally.

This is a truly momentous and exciting development, as many believe that one of telehealth’s most direct paths to “tipping” is physician-offered and -prescribed services. Soon, you’ll be able to see your doctor online when and where it’s convenient for you.

Want to learn why healthy systems and telelhealth make such a perfect match? Download our slideshare below:

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