It’s a fairly common practice for bloggers and other media types to tell stories that reflect the BEST uses for technology in vertical applications.
Two areas of desperate need of innovation are higher education and healthcare. Which may be surprising, being as they are leaders in innovation output.
But both have failed to innovate (enough anyhow) their customer facing processes. Both have deployed various forms of digital signage and interactive solutions to facilitate satisfaction, but I’m not so sure those case studies do or should warrant much attention.
So, I’d like to take a different approach and tell a story that doesn’t exist; the 3 applications for interactivity that should be leveraged for success, but have not been.
I will not attempt to answer the question, “why haven’t they,” but a quick fire hypothesis is that these business types are still led by folks who have been there since #2 pencils became the standard and “take two, and call me in the morning” was still a fairly new cliché.
This is a two part series. I will focus on Healthcare in this installment.
Three Interactive Applications NOT Being Used to Facilitate Healthcare Customer Satisfaction
For storytelling context I will leverage my recent prescription filling debacle. I was extremely frustrated and the 1980’s technology being used for this process was alarming to say the least. Let’s start with simply getting my doctor to approve the prescription (which he wrote). At 4:18 PM on Tuesday I went to CVS and asked them to fill it. Because I had missed my last fill, they had to…get this…FAX a request to the doctor. I was informed to return in the morning, but I was candidly told that I may want to call the doctor myself, to “motivate him” to take action. Being as I was feverishly preparing for a 3 day vacation and had a workload above my eyeballs, I failed to make that ANALOG motivational call to the doctor. When I returned to CVS that evening, they sadly reported that no action had been taken. There’s one whole day gone.
Now on Thursday I call the doctor’s office. I am told - after extracting it from them – that the doctor denied my prescription because it has been more than 365 days since my last visit. I don’t recall signing that agreement – especially not for a non-narcotic medication. I debated the doctor’s office, not the doctor, for nearly an hour, to no avail. It is now Thursday afternoon and I am on my way to the airport. At this point I get a call from my local CVS with “great news, your prescription has been approved!” Well, too bad I am on my way to catch a flight. I ask them to transfer it to a location near the airport. But the pharma-tech wants me to tell her which CVS that is – remember I am driving and on my cell – a crime in the state of California. She is standing on her feet over a PC, AND is an employee of CVS.
I give her some approximate target coordinates. She tells me that there are two CVS’s on a street that is about 22 miles long and runs through about 6 cities. But she can not tell me which is nearest to the international airport I am in en route to. So I select one out of a hat and ask her to transfer. The drive from my office to the airport is nearly an hour, and the exact address slips my mind. I couldn’t possibly give direction, talk on phone, and take notes all while driving. So I of course arrive at the “wrong one.” I inform their team of my needs and which store is my local pharmacist. But the stare of confusion I get in return was priceless. All 4 techs completely freeze, and have no idea how to solve this riddle. Super Stephen back to the rescue! I hop on the phone, tell my pharmacist where I arrived. But now I am brokering a conversation between two stores because its against pharmacy law to use a patients cell phone. Eventually, with me as the translator, they arrive at this solution: FAX. Ha Ha Ha. At this point my blood is boiling and I pace the aisles looking for a fever reducer.
After about another 20 minutes, 3 failed faxes, two phone calls, and a partridge in a pear tree, they did eventually fill my prescription. And I did make my flight. So no harm no foul, right? Well that kind of thinking works in communism and monopolies only, so let’s play this back in the digital world to see how things could have been greatly improved:
1. Social Media Does Connect People - the primary issue at the heart of this epic failure was the fact that I hadn’t seen my doctor in a year. This could have been managed through a social channel that the doctor creates just to stay on top of his patients. Yea, I know the days of house visits and first name basis are over, but then again so are many other human interactions. Today connections are facilitated through digital devices and websites that allow you to mass connect and exchange ideas, questions, and even political agenda. So to think that this same delivery system can’t be leveraged in patient care is more than ludicrous – it’s down right lazy. Not to mention that preventative measures are the greatest contribution to national health and reducing the total cost of medical – a little social pressure from my doctor (especially given that I spend well below what’s allotted by my HSA) would have certainly resulted in at least 2 visits in the course of the year. A real win-win-win.
2. Mobile Apps for Prescription Execution – I’ve seen more innovation in pizza delivery (thank you Domino’s). How about a mobile app that allows me to request a fill of my prescription from any CVS pharmacy location? I get to scan locations based on my current GPS position, and via a simple 6 character code all my possible fills are identified. I even see on this personal dashboard the last date of my fill for each prescription, the date at which I should refill, and if I need to see the doctor soon to get more refills approved. I select and go! I get a notification when a pharmacist receives the request, I am given her name, and maybe even a smiling picture. All of this reduces my stress and builds confidence. Each step of the process updates me, and I can track the progress, choosing to arrive in a manner that is most efficient for the use of my time. In the event a prescription must be transferred, the pharmacy has their own version of the app. Nonetheless, I still see the tracking. I could be on my way to locations #1, but due to low inventory they proactively transfer to location #2, and I am prompted. Seamless and satisfying – just like Netflix, Amazon, or BestBuy.com – all of whom do not even scrape the available resources of the healthcare market at whole.
3. Interactive Displays for Learning – all of this assumes that your doctor was successful at diagnosing you and prescribing the best possible medication. But really, how often does that happen? I get more incredulous looks from my doctor when I discuss symptoms than I do from a puppy who sees a tennis ball for the first time. Look, I get it, medicine is big, he can’t possibly know EVERYTHING, but more times than I am comfortable with, he not knowing what’s wrong means nothing is wrong – now THAT is a diagnosis I can not stomach. Remember, I go to the doctor less than once a year, so it’s not like I’m a hypochondriac or anything.
Every patient room should be equipped with a learning tool, one that allows for searching of symptoms, taking deep looks at anatomy, and one that introduces patients to similar scenarios to the one they are facing. It’s like the old days when the doctor would sit next to you with a skeletal model in his hands walking you through some key points, except now he’s doing it via a 22” touch screen display. You are both learning simultaneously. A provider is continually updating the network of information. This is the type of doctor facing tool would be perfect for a digital information giant like WebMD. Bed side manner, efficacy, prevention, smarter patients, more protected doctors – these are all potential results by employing such technology.
My story, however brief, is a microcosm for what’s missing in the practice of healthcare. So much time and money is spent on capitol hill when so much more could be spent at the local practitioner level. For once maybe the results and impact can flow upstream instead of down. The cross section of leading edge technology and medicine does not have to be relegated to bio labs only. It’s time to reinvent the care of people the same way we have reinvented communication, buying and institutional learning. I have witnessed a glimmer of hope at the HMO level and even some rogue clinics across the nation, but I still see these instances as a marketing trick, no real measurement of success or feedback loops that communicate areas of needed improvement. Much like the bureaucracy at large many of the current interactive and digital case studies are nothing more than a way for the industry to check the technology box before they move on to the next cash grab event or political lobbying.
What are YOU going to do to introduce creative and innovative interactive applications into healthcare?
Author Bio | Stephen "Gladdy" Gladden | Horizon Display
Trading in his specialist hat for that of a generalist, Stephen Gladden has become Horizon's modern marketing pundit. Notably known to walk into a meeting with nothing more than a box of magic markers, he drafts Horizon Display's integrated multi-channel marketing strategies or Gladdy-O-Grams as they have come to be known. Wading waist deep in touch technology for 5 years, he also serves as leader of Horizon's creative services and software offerings- we let him call that Studio 5.