Transforming Healthcare into a Patient-Centered World

One of the most valuable resources in healthcare is data. Access to data and the ability to leverage that data is essential to creating consumer-centric models of care, improving outcomes, and reducing costs.

Healthcare stakeholders have a variety of available tools and resources at their disposal for collecting and analyzing data, but they often struggle with how best to leverage and optimize its value.

In this post, we’re going to dive deeper into this topic by summarizing a few key takeaways from our recent healthcare webinar. Moderated by Colette Balaam, CEO at Hive, featured guests in this discussion included Karl Hampson, Director of AI at Solstice, and Steve Prewitt, Chief Analytics Officer at Healthfirst.

 

Transformation through disruption

When it comes to innovation, the healthcare industry presents a paradox. Although life-changing medical breakthroughs often come about at a rapid pace, improvements in healthcare service and delivery have been painstakingly slow to materialize.

In a recent study of healthcare and finance executives, 53 percent cited the patient experience as one of their top challenges facing the organization. This rising level of concern makes perfect sense. We’ve already seen consumers shift away from brick-and-mortar stores in other markets, and it was only a matter of time before healthcare followed the same pattern.

“Anyone who has visited a clinic recently or has spent time trying to decipher a hospital bill knows the patient journey has yet to reach the level of experience we have come to expect in other areas of our lives,” said Prewitt.

With purchasing power tilting more in favor of consumers, it’s natural that they would opt for more convenient options when seeking the healthcare services and products they need. An important component in the effort to improve the patient experience will be the intelligent use of data.

 

Data as a strategic asset

Healthcare providers today have a variety of data resources at their disposal, but many struggle to access, share, and analyze these large volumes of data in a meaningful way. Core to making healthcare more efficient, measurable, and patient-centric is the ability to integrate vast data resources available across this ecosystem and translate them into actionable insights.

This is where advanced analytical tools can play a vital role, Hampson explained.

“Analyzing new and diverse digital data streams can reveal new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into patient behavior, and identify market trends early on." 

This level of deep insight is particularly relevant to healthcare where the industry is moving from purchasing services based on access, to a revenue-oriented model based on outcomes. Those outcomes will have to be backed up by evidence, and that evidence will need to be of a very high quality. The goal of course is to help minimize treatment costs and lower risks to those patients susceptibility to potential high risk conditions.

According to Prewitt, one key area of focus for healthcare is the need to find value in unstructured data sources. “Structured data is handled very well today, however, there’s a lot of it that’s unstructured,” he said. “The good news is we are only scratching the surface on what unstructured data can bring—not just to improve the patient’s experience, but to improve the entire healthcare ecosystem.”

There’s always the intent to make unstructured data structured so it can ultimately drive more insights and hopefully reduce friction and enhance patient experience. The technologies to achieve that goal are much more prevalent today so there’s a trend in investing in those tools that can transform the patient journey and improve outcomes.

 

Elevating the patient experience

In healthcare, progress toward better service has moved forward in fits and starts. Overall, however, the pace of change is accelerating. One of the big challenges today is that optimizing a patient’s individual experience is a secondary concern—from an economic perspective, that is. Doctors and healthcare professionals do care about their experience. Sadly, high costs faced by the healthcare ecosystem result in patients being treated more as products than customers.

“Healthcare providers and insurers are increasingly pushing economic burdens to the patients, and as a result, are seeing significant behavioral changes,” Prewitt said. “Patients are asking for receipts and for costs before they even pay for the bill. That is, they are acting as buyers not merely consumers. So, the issue is mainly structural and once they become buyers they’ll be treated more as customers.”

 

Role of emerging technology

The forces that have managed to disrupt other markets—from travel to media to retail—have so far made only slight intrusions into healthcare. But that is changing. To survive in this disruptive environment, companies must be able to innovate faster than their competitors. This is where applying the right data infrastructure and technology framework can make all the difference.

Growth in artificial intelligence (AI) is a good example.

AI tools can help doctors and insurance providers better identify and prioritize patients to deliver the optimum level of care to minimize costs and enrich patient outcomes.

The technology is also proving to be instrumental for analyzing large volumes of data to evaluate and develop future treatments.

At the same time, many big technology players today are already building connected tools, wearable devices and healthcare applications, allowing patients to track and monitor their treatment progress and send data back to the healthcare provider. One emerging trend is the increased sharing of this data to empower patients and improve outcomes with more use-case specific treatments.

At this point, the ability of data to transform the patient experience is evident. Yet, we need to keep in mind, people are more resistant to sharing data without seeing a direct benefit. “After all, there have been examples in the past, in which data that was shared was mishandled,” said Prewitt. “This is the reason that if data sharing can be kept patient-centered and self-directed, the industry will stay on the right side. Otherwise, global acquisition of data won’t be tolerated.”

 

Managing social influences

Underpinning many of today’s healthcare challenges are circumstances outside the healthcare system, such as the conditions in which people are born, live, work and age. As these social determinants become a greater focus in healthcare treatment and service delivery, costs are expected to decrease while quality of life would improve for those impacted communities. In many areas, this has already begun, as hospitals and health insurers work with local health departments to identify social determinants and address community health concerns.

Social conditions and non-health factors have a major impact on a patient’s livelihood, explained Prewitt. The key is implementing the right data collection and analytical tools. “While wearables and other monitoring devices represent unconventional sources of data, these tools could create significant insights that reflect the situation of those who struggle with non-health factors, and eventually turn them into solutions,” he said. “This means, even a conversation between a doctor and a patient, could help improve service quality and aid in new treatment discoveries”.

 

Breaking barriers with better intelligence

Leveraging data is not new to healthcare companies, however, today the stakes are higher, the opportunities are greater, and the data volumes and quality have expanded. By transforming data today into value-based intelligence, the influence of real-world data can rapidly progress from potential to wide-ranging reality.

 

Watch the full webinar here.