Too many digital front doors lead to dead ends
tOP healthcare leaders have defied rain, hail and flash flood warnings this year JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. And the other thing they commute? The heavy influx of new entrants in healthcare retailers. Ads in JPM and another CES 2023 conference In Las Vegas they confirmed the desire of people including Amazon, Best Buy, CVS and even Samsung to try to simplify health care.
CVS is making a play to extend its arm into primary care and behavioral health. Walgreens is entering new markets, acquiring Summit Health. and Amazon Recent acquisition of One Medical Looks like it’s set to pass approvals.
All of these investments, deals, and partnerships promote convenience. It’s the right motive. But in 2023, comfort just isn’t enough. If the solution is not transformative, addressing problems large and small of the US health care system at scale, then there is no room for it.
Americans have been promised simple access to health care for years, so it’s understandable if they’ve rushed to enter many of the new digital front doors. But many of these doors lead to a small, dead end foyer that has nothing to do with — or understand — their health history, insurance benefits, unique needs, or preferences.
This disconnect creates comfort without contact and more confusion, a frustratingly familiar scenario for people seeking care. The urgency of anyone seeking health services is something more comprehensive, valuable, and long-term, something that goes beyond making health care convenient to making it better in fundamental terms. For everyone.
I think integration is the innovation that matters right now.
Successful long-term players in healthcare will take the necessary steps to rethink the entire system and tackle the problems they can uniquely solve, in the channels where they can make the most impact. That’s certainly the focus of Included Health, the company I lead. We feel we can make the biggest difference by connecting people to the right care at the right time, whether virtual or in-person, in a way that is fully informed by insurance coverage, health history, preferences, identity and needs.
Here’s the thing: Lots of shiny new offerings further crack the healthcare experience. Nothing less than a combination of clinical leadership, care delivery, technological expertise, and consumer-oriented service, all measured by a healthy dose of patient-reported results, will succeed. You will not overcome the uncontrollable costs, inaccessibility, injustices, and simple bad experiences that so many people have.
To drive real change across industry and across countries, healthcare innovators need to avoid distractions and focus on the real antidote to complexity, fragmentation, and individual isolation: an experience for people that encompasses their entire health and their entire lives. Half of Americans They get confused about their own health insurance benefits, and even if they understand it, 84 million Living in places with a lack of primary care.
New retailers looking to enter healthcare may mean well, bringing promising personalized healthcare to the phone, the watch, or the doorstep. But people need much more than that. They need guidance. That means advocacy, nuanced and empathetic caring interactions, and one-on-one support to navigate it all: the everyday, the urgent, and the most complex. People are tired of having to connect the dots. To fill in their primary care physician, if they have one, about their experience in urgent care or about the text conversation they had with a therapist through workplace health benefits. Done right, the merger will have a massive impact: better health at a lower cost. Inline Health data was recently collected that shows this type of approach can Reduce health care costs by 6% to 10%.
Digital solutions alone are not enough to reinvent healthcare. Electronic health records have created chaos. First-generation telehealth services failed to ease the burden on healthcare providers, creating more barriers for patients trying to access their health information. Early personal health trackers did not lead to the promised health improvements. Any solution that fails to take advantage of data and connectivity, to deliver predictive and personalized care, is a bona fide short-term game. It may be good for short-term revenue, but it is bad for health.
So let’s think long term. This is more than comfortable. People need healthcare that is designed and proven to treat them better.
Owen Tripp is the co-founder and CEO of Inc included healthan integrated virtual care and navigation company.
First opinion bulletin: If you enjoy reading opinions and perspective articles, get a roundup of first opinions each week delivered to your inbox every Sunday. Register here.