By Tom Sullivan, HealthcareIT News | September 30, 2018
Consumerism is already gaining some ground in healthcare. Hospital and IT executives know that the trend will, in time, change many aspects of the industry, from check-in and triage to billing and revenue cycle to patient experience, among many others.
Pinpointing exactly when technology and healthcare will be ready for consumerism, however, is a bit more difficult.
So we asked our readers two questions. The first was about the technology’s readiness, the second about when healthcare itself will be prepared. Not surprisingly, a majority said today’s digital health tools are up to the task but hospitals will need three or more years to put them to widespread use.
Are today’s technologies ready for clinical mobility to enable consumers to make more informed healthcare choices?
As you can see, 60.4 percent of 101 anonymous readers said the current crop of tools are suitable for enabling consumers to become more proactive in their health.
“People are equipped to make these decisions for themselves and if consumers didn’t ask for it, it wouldn’t be the trend we are heading toward,” one reader commented. “It’s the nebulous health plans that make navigating one’s care impossible and unfathomable.”
Another reader who answered that today’s tools are not ready wrote that the industry is still “waiting for new hardware. Smart devices are not advanced enough yet.”
Which brings us back to the question of timing.
How long will it take for healthcare to be ready for consumers
While one reader, expecting healthcare to be ready in one to three years, said health consumers will push enough that hospitals will have to make it happen.
“It is time for patients to become more active in their medical decisions by using a technology that they are most familiar with – their mobile phone – a computer in their pocket,” another noted. “The easier it is for patients to take control of their medical care, with information, the more adoption you will see.”
Other poll respondents said it will take time for that to actually happen.
“It’s still about driving premium returns and not enough in technology and process and miles from patient first,” a reader in the three-to-five-years camp wrote; another listed “CMS and political bureaucracy,” among the top challenges.
Consumerism is not only gathering momentum in the United States, of course – a reader from Europe shed some light on what’s happening there.
“Governmental authorities, especially here in Germany, sleep over the trend, don’t listen to thought leaders and need to (push) for legislation and (make) important decisions.”
A consensus emerged that even though the technology exists, it is also encumbered by older and legacy systems that are not focused on the patient.
“Healthcare is still using antiquated technologies and it will take time to make changes once the mindset changes – which I believe we’re just starting to see now,” commented a participant expecting consumerism to take five to seven years.
Large volumes of data, the high cost of analytics software, consumer and physician education, built-in inefficiencies, varying regulatory requirements in different countries as well as technology implementation timelines were all listed among the reasons it will take five to seven years.
“Over the next five years the majority of resources will be directed toward the modernization and replacement of legacy systems as health organizations move toward implementations of enterprise wide integrated applications,” another reader said.