The State of Health IT to Engage the New Health Consumer

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, MA (Econ.), MHSA Health Economist and Advisor THINK-Health and Health Populi Blog

Health consumers are patients, caregivers, and people. Some are healthy, some are newly-diagnosed with chronic conditions, others are managing ongoing illnesses, and a group is facing end-stage illness making end-of-life decisions. Health IT can engage people across the continuum of care, to enable and empower consumers to shop for better care, share in clinical decision making with clinicians, care at home for self and family, and manage healthcare financial wellness through the journey. In this context, these are the three priorities I’m hoping to see emerge at HIMSS16:

Develop health IT products, platforms and services that take a user (consumer)-centered approach to design. This approach would incorporate UX principles which bring patients, caregivers and people into the conceptualization and early design phases of products and services, incorporating the patient voice and preferences into product development.

Ensure affordability of products for both the provider and consumer payor communities. In the growing value-based payment era for physicians, and high-deductible/greater financial risk regime for patients, health IT products and services must prove their value to these constituencies. New tech should bolster The Triple Aim: working to reduce per capita costs, enhance patient and provider experience, and drive population health. For providers, this means improving care workflow, outcomes, and lowering practice costs. For patients, this translates into increasing self-efficacy for self-care, providing support in ways people find personally useful and relevant, and helping manage the growing health care cost burden. If the product requires internet connectivity for the consumer, ensure that the person has access to broadband/WiFi; a well-designed example of this is the AdhereTech wireless pill bottle which has an embedded cellular network enabling the patient to be connected to the network.

Build health technology to look and feel like consumer products that have easy on-ramps for use, enchanted design (see David Rose’s work at the MIT Media Lab), reduced traction, and ongoing support and feedback to consumers for both customer support (usability, logistics, connectivity) and clinical relevance (personal utility, usefulness and personalization).

What stakeholders need to be involved in this discussion?

  • Developers in health IT organizations
  • Physicians, clinicians and researchers
  • Payors: Insurers, self-insured employers, public (Medicare, Medicaid, VA)
  • Patient, consumer and family advocacy organizations
  • Patient social networks (adjacent to advocacy)
  • Regulators (FDA, FCC, FTC and others)
  • Retail health ecosystem: pharmacy, grocery, urgent care and retail clinics, consumer electronics, telecommunications and cable

What are our barriers to progress?

  • The pace of value-based payment in local health care markets
  • Communities’ access to broadband (see HIMSS and PCHA’s petition to the FCC for more broadband investment for “the last miles”)
  • Clinicians’ slow acceptance of consumer-facing health technologies and patient-generated data [related to (a)(i), payment]
  • Consumers’ self-activation for health
  • Consumers’ growing trust of digitally-enabled companies and large retail to help manage health vis-à-vis static trust in healthcare legacy organizations

What opportunities can we nurture further? 

  • Leverage the growing value-based payment environment to educate clinicians on the opportunity to engage patients with connected health platforms
  • Educate physicians on the Open Notes project, the hard-dollar value from patient activation and health engagement, and the value of shared decision-making with patients (especially potent in value-based payment)
  • Ally with patient and family advocacy organizations to collaborate and scale patient/consumer demand for connected health IT
  • Collaborate with consumer retail and digitally-enabled companies to co-create and market consumer-facing health IT solutions

Advancing this perspective at HIMSS16

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