Why Healthcare must Re-imagine itself – And how?

Arun Kumbhat

The old paradigm of business as a linear value chain is now facing extinction.

Uber, AirBnB, Amazon and many-many more, are changing the paradigm by integrating resources that they do not own, produce or consume and delivering value to the consumer.

The key word is Integration!

Integration, not merely forwards and backwards, but in directions never yet imagined.

Businesses are now ecologies and not merely producers and sellers! That requires a change in thinking.

There are lessons in there that Healthcare would do well to learn from since the consumer has spoken loud and clear of what he wishes.

Historically, a demand driven market, and an acute nature of intervention has kept healthcare businesses, so far operating as islands and lagging far behind in meeting the expectation of the consumer, apparently by refusing to adapt.

Beneath the surface lies legacy thinking derived from a manufacturing past, where process engineering is mostly incremental in nature and rarely disruptive as we see in today’s technology driven time.

The population driven volumes and the scarcity of supply allowed the luxury of not having to adapt.

This is changing as the share of chronic disease requiring continued care, is fast achieving the lion’s share in healthcare revenue.

And so capital drives into healthcare – measuring results, while the consumer is increasingly begin to question the nature and quality of his engagement with Healthcare and exercise choices.

The old adage No Customer-No Business, Know Customer-Know business is getting truer every day.

The writing is on the wall for Healthcare leaders and workers to read and adapt to.

Data Driven Analytics is making it possible for other businesses to engage the consumer in a far more informed and targeted fashion. Enabling to develop a closer relationship with the consumer and tailor offerings to his needs and preferences. The new age business is not only nimble, but proactive in adapting to behavioural preferences of the consumer. While, healthcare struggles to generate meaningful data, and is loath to share it or analyse it or engage with the consumer at a level that other businesses are already doing. Much less integrate in every direction.

The irony is that Healthcare is a more ‘Personal’ business than any of these other services or products are!

So the issues to ponder are:

Customer Relationship Focus

For reasons discussed above, the customer is no longer a speck on the horizon, but needs to be fully integrated into the healthcare ecology, for value to be delivered and received.

Can a healthcare business really afford to behave like a command economy anymore? Conversations over the last two years with caregivers and patients clearly point to the fact that Customer Acquisition and Customer Retention are key challenges in business. Customer acquisition is no longer about a minor expense for any business but requires serious investment – in fact it is ‘The Investment’, often requiring serious external capital for new businesses, besides creativity and agile thinking.

Businesses fail to capitalize on this ‘investment phase’ when they lose customers. Typically 70% customers never return to healthcare providers for one reason or another. Sustainability of the business and investment is significantly impacted by this number. The way to protect this is to engage with the customer in a more meaningful fashion, only possible by serious customer focus and relationship management. Encapsulated in the question – how well do you know your customer? Ergo. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) needs to be a mission at every step of the process. This is hard to over-emphasize!

This is impossible without meaningful data.

Generate Meaningful Data

It all begins with Patient-Care Giver Interaction, whatever the setting, phone, clinic or hospital.

In the Indian context the capture of data at this stage is non-existent. We still rely on paper based processes, and record keeping is woefully inadequate if not absent! This in a nation that wants to know my mother’s maiden name when I apply for my passport and similar questions that my bank wishes to ask of me and store my answers!

Adapting to tools that generate meaningful data at this stage is vital. Keeping in view the fact that integration is eventually what is needed, standards need to be set and followed. Without standards data even if generated would just be a meaningless mass of no use at all. Integration, in the absence of standards will remain a pipe dream.

Which one of us hasn’t been frustrated at the speed of insurance claims settlement or its narrow coverage?

Herein lies the greatest challenge as this needs behavioural change! Which one of us hasn’t failed at changing habits, be it losing weight or giving up smoking or alcohol or anything else.

As a healthcare worker, whatever your level of participation in it, the need is to be more forthcoming to changes that would allow more meaningful data to be recorded.

It necessitates not only users but also providers to have a more domain specialized approach and creativity of a high order. Quality talent that is hard to find, but must be done.

Be Open to Sharing

Clearly the time to think of business as a linear entity or value chain is not about to fetch meaningful returns on investment or at least keep costs of doing business high and ‘leave money on the table’ by not leveraging all that you can. Leverage and operating in an ecology means integration with external partners like insurance, referral partners, suppliers or be it customers, other businesses or other resources, and doing this in real time. Most of these processes are time critical from technology and customer experience perspective.

The Paper route makes them unviable and archaic and the legacy IT systems have hardly enabled external integration. Technology is clearly only way to do so, be it products, services or knowledge.

The internet is clearly the medium that allows such integration across time and space. It is time to take a more accepting look at Cloud and Social Media technologies. This offers the only universal layer of engagement across stakeholders.

Mobility

That the Mobile Phone has revolutionized lives continues to be an understatement. It has brought IT to the most technology averse and avid alike. Which one of us hasn’t used messaging of some sort?

We are increasingly connecting and integrating through the mobile phone. Its capabilities are pushing the envelope each day, in sync with increasingly mobile and demanding, always-on ways of life that are necessary. We do more things on the move now that we ever did in the past.

The investment in IT hardware as we knew it in the past has been greatly optimized by it. It has brought a tactile feel to life and work for all of us. It mirrors the nature of Healthcare in terms of immediacy and continuity so well. Healthcare needs to embrace it wholeheartedly. Healthcare can only profit from it.

Let us engage more with each other. Together, we have a future to build.

Feel free to start a conversation at arun.kumbhat@gmail.com!

 

Author: Arun Kumbhat, Evangelist

Gurgaon, India