Panel discussion at the 7th Annual London Business School Global Healthcare Conference, London 2015
In recent years, patients’ expectations of healthcare and the way in which they interact with physicians have changed beyond recognition. Technology solutions are rapidly developing to enable patients to take greater ownership of their health data, and to co-create individualised pathways of care. It’s an exciting landscape filled with great potential, but also uncertainty. What exactly does the future look like, and when is it coming? And will these changes really improve patient outcomes?
A panel of self-confessed ‘doctors in recovery’, who have transitioned to the health technology industry, were well-placed to explore these questions in a discussion moderated by Dr Anne Bruinvels, Founder of Px Healthcare. As a medical writer with clinical experience but no business background, it was fascinating for me to view these issues from a different standpoint.
24/7 banking, retail…and medical care?
Patients’ attitudes have evolved to mirror those of consumers in any other industry, which Dr Bayju Thakar, Founder and Development Director of Synergix Health, thinks may result from the online and on-demand culture that has emerged around other services. Patients often have very specific ideas about what they want or need. According to Dr Anil Ohri, Founder and CEO of Regent’s Park Heart Clinics, a patient presenting with chest pain 10 years ago may have been aware that they needed an ECG, but today’s patients are asking for a coronary CT scan and want to know their calcium score.
Patient engagement is a huge untapped resource
This shift in attitudes places greater demands on healthcare services, but is also a valuable chance to increase patients’ involvement in their own care. Dr Guy Gross, Innovation Delivery Lead at Imperial College Health Partners, noted that patients only spend about 3–10 hours per year in contact with clinicians. Supporting patients to self-manage, rather than just creating more touchpoints with services, is the key to care provision during the remaining 8690 hours. Deploying new care delivery models is crucial — for instance, patients could have a routine blood test at their local supermarket and get the results online. Barriers also need to be broken down between different healthcare professionals, so that an individual’s role is defined by their skills rather than constrained by their job description.
Models of care need to keep pace
The traditional face-to-face consultation model is becoming obsolete. Services as diverse as mental health counselling and dietetic advice are now available for patients to access remotely online. Dr Mark Jenkins, UK Managing Director at Oviva, believes that increased use of digital platforms will prove valuable, by “inserting the technology that everybody uses every day to help them access their care”. Challenging the status quo isn’t simple — new innovations may be easier to introduce in environments where doctors hold power locally, rather than within central commissioning bodies like the NHS.
Always on-call — but does a robot doctor have a heart?
Technology solutions can offer simple, rapid access to care, but they must retain a degree of empathy. Patients ‘are scared of computers answering their questions’. Although they may accept interacting with an algorithm supervised by a healthcare professional, patients are unlikely to engage with fully automated platforms such as chatbots, or to allow technology to substitute all aspects of their care.
Assessing outcomes within an evolving paradigm
Bearing these developments in mind, how can we assess whether quality of care and real-world outcomes for patients will actually improve? Finding the right performance metrics is challenging — current focus lies on service use, but a shift towards patient-reported outcomes is needed. This is particularly difficult within settings like the NHS, where different aspects of each patient’s treatment are sourced from multiple providers, but remains a critical consideration to keep patients at the centre of care.
The role of the patient is changing, and healthcare delivery systems across the globe need to adapt to accommodate this, despite ongoing challenges such as financial pressures and rigid clinical governance. Technology solutions are at the heart of this process, and multiway collaborations between business, clinicians and commissioning bodies are needed to create fit-for-purpose healthcare for Patient 2.0.
My role and the company I work for
I am a Medical Writer at Ashfield Healthcare Communications, the global leader in multichannel medical education, healthcare communications and scientific PR.
At Ashfield Healthcare Communications, there is one guiding principle that connects all of the agencies: to help patients and healthcare professionals get the medicines, knowledge and support they need, through insightful, tailored and scientifically rigorous multichannel communications. Ashfield is part of UDG Healthcare plc, an international outsourcing solutions partner for the pharmaceutical industry.
I can be contacted at email@example.com.
The views presented in this article previously published in Medium are my own.