A patient is a customer. The customer is the patient. The reality of the interchangeable meanings is that either is just a person being one and the same.
The customer, who receives and pays his bills, is also the patient who tries to book an appointment with his doctor by phone.
The customer, who uploads his documents and fills up a form online for his tax returns, is also the patient who wants access to his lab test results real-time.
The customer, who by just a click of the mouse or a finger tap on his mobile screen can get everything he wants and needs, demands the same for healthcare services. In the digital world in which we live there is no divide between the e-customer and e-patient. They are one and the same with the same wants – demand for convenience at their fingertips.
What is unforgivable in an interconnected and digital world is a healthcare system that fails. Long queues in doctor’s clinic waiting areas, are begrudged, but still tolerated, for now. But day of surgery (DOS) cancellations because the surgeon has an ineffective communication link with the patient preoperatively,– there is no room for that in a digitized, even civilized, world.
Six years ago that was true for most DOS cancellations. A study on the "Dynamics of Elective Case Cancellation for Inpatient and Outpatient in an Academic Center" published in the 2013 Journal of Anesthesia and Clinical Research concluded that most of the surgery cancellations were preventable.
Cited in that study as the top 3 reasons for surgery cancellation in general Operating Room (OR) were inadequate preoperative preparation, medical condition change; and scheduling issue. All of the causes are preventable with effective communication and coordination between the patient and the provider, except for medical condition change, which to some extent is arguably also preventable.
According to that study “inpatients have the highest cancellation rate associated with inadequate preoperative preparation and scheduling, this should be preventable via adopting proper systems of evaluation and preparation. Most of the case cancellations in the ambulatory surgical center are from patient no show, suggesting that administrative strategies to reduce this issue should be implemented.”
Fast forward to now, that “proper systems of evaluation and preparation” or “administrative strategies” that same study recommended six years ago need to be in the healthcare system to meet the requirements of a hyper-connected customer, the ePatient.
The ePatient is the empowered customer in the patient-centric healthcare industry of the present. He is digitally wired and e-connected. He’s got the whole wide web world in his hands.
That digital future of healthcare that Digitalist Magazine saw in 2017 as a transformation to “healthcare made for me,” where empowered patients receive anticipatory services personalized to the segment-of-one – each individual patient, has been here all along.
Patient engagement solutions through automated remote dialogue such as has been provided by LifeWIRE for over five years now. LifeWIRE provides a cloud-based patented communication platform that meets the ePatients “me-my-mine now” kind of care.
The ePatients are not just the tech-savvies nor are they defined by age. They are not the young ones as often noted, but survey showed they are also those who were young once.
The 2014 research insights by McKinsey&Company on Healthcare's Digital Future, pointed out that even four years ago “patients from all age groups are more than willing to use digital services for healthcare. In fact, older patients (those over 50) want digital healthcare services nearly as much as their younger counterparts.” They all want to be more engaged in their process of health
Washington DC-based eHealth Initiative and Foundation (eHI) has cited LifeWIRE’s capability that supported veterans, who cover the same demographics, as the best practices in patient engagement
outside the realm of traditional care. eHI is a leading advocate for improvements in the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare through information technology.
So who is that ePatient?
He is Tom, who gets a reminder on his device about a routine checkup, schedules appointment with his doctor online through an app. He is Harry, who after being diagnosed of cancer, all his relevant data can be accessed through a digital health network by all his doctors for personalized treatment for his cancer type.
She is Maria who is being prepped for surgery and needed management for hypertension and diabetes through a health app that tracks and records her weight, glucose level and blood pressure for her doctors to pull up and check.
Then as a customer in the digital world, what do ePatients want?
Even as more than 75% of all patients expect to use digital services in the future according to McKinsey&Company’s research, “their requirements are surprisingly mundane - efficiency, better access to information, integration with other channels, and the availability of a real person if the digital service doesn’t give them what they need.”
“Patients have long gravitated to digital with 90 million patients discussing health topics online. In the United States, 80 percent of patients carry out online research prior to a consultation, and four out of five patients would share their data to receive better care.” – McKinsey&Company May 2018 insights on "Medical Affairs: Key Imperatives for Engaging and Educating Physicians in a Digital World"
And with that is a growing preference for telemedicine. According to the 2017 US-wide survey conducted by BMC Health Services Research, “patients prefer to use telemedicine with their own doctor with whom they have an established relationship.”
During the Sustainable Development Impact Summit of the World Economic Forum they endorsed technology of this kind that brings greater opportunities for patients “to manage their health on their own terms, from smartphone apps that send medication reminders to wearables that can help monitor and prevent health issues before they become life threatening.”
And a key can be an innovative and effective patient engagement platform because the patient has evolved, now ever connected as very engaged customer. That is the ePatient.