April 1, 2016

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Digital: It’s what gets the pulse of healthcare racing

Have you visited a doctor recently? Your visit may have gone something like this: you fixed an appointment with the doctor on your mobile phone, scheduled the visit in your digital calendar, used Google maps to reach your doctor, and perhaps made a payment for the meds using a mobile wallet. But remember those piles of paper files you filled out when you were at the clinic?

It is a peculiar characteristic of Healthcare today: Some processes across the value chain are highly digital while others remain Neanderthal by comparison.

Digitalization is allowing Physicians to have more access to more data than ever before leading to improved diagnosis; they can monitor patients in real time to assess the efficacy of their treatment regimens. Payers have more accurate data to drive down care costs.

Digitalization is disrupting traditional business models by blurring the lines between stakeholders and redefining value chains. And yet, patients are unable to take control of their healthcare and move to a proactive health management model.

However the industry is now paying attention because as per a McKinsey report digital health solutions can unlock $350-400 billion of value by 2018. Imagine this: The new revenue source doesn’t need one additional person to fall ill.

The problem with drawing distinct digital lines between stakeholders takes back to a problem created due to Michael Porter’s industrial-economics oriented Five Forces. The Five Forces do not consider how digitization changes the dynamics of the healthcare industry.

Today, digital technologies can become the glue between disparate industry segments, making them work in concert, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving health care.

A way of examining the value chain and injecting it with “steroids” is to look at the points of intersection between users and healthcare systems. These nodes become the target of digital technologies, shifting the focus from rolling out large CRM type systems. These, admittedly, are necessary; but with the amount of attention they draw, they blindside us to more urgent needs.

Here are some interesting examples of nodes where digital is re-engineering the healthcare value chain:

  • Pharma: An online data sharing platform, PatientsLikeMe, connects patients to one another so they can share first-hand information, advice, and resources
  • Provider: DoctoronTap, offers telephone and email medical support services – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is an Uber like asset-light aggregation model which leverages digital.
  • Patient: 23andme provides a concept of direct-to-customer genetic testing is novel and led the company to cross the 1 million user mark.

The industry needs to tackle the speed at which its technology investments are changing, while legacy systems take longer to change, the new digital systems are being modified faster hence creating a need to synchronize these speeds for leveraging technology in full.

Next time you visit your doctor, it may be possible to simply provide a bio-metric impression that pulls out your digital records and auto fills the mandatory forms, which in turn connects you seamlessly to a number of relevant digital services from payers, providers, pro-active healthcare management systems, and support communities – effectively putting you in better control of your health.

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