Home > Uncategorized > The Promise of an Experience-based Economy in Healthcare Delivery

The Promise of an Experience-based Economy in Healthcare Delivery

I’ve been thinking about the discussion we had in class a few weeks ago about the present economy and the notion put forth by economist Joe Pine that it is now all about the consumer experience. To remind you, in a TED talk Pine takes us through the evolution of the US economy. His discussion follows the progression of our economic engine as one that was started in the trade of commodities, eventually morphing into one based on the exchange of goods, and more recently one based on the provision of services. Pine surmised that the current iteration has moved us to an experience based economy, where giving the consumer active engagement will be the chief influencer of commerce.

Its always amazing to me when you encounter an idea that is so well laid out and logical and then you start seeing evidence if it everywhere you go. It is the light bulb effect and I find myself saying “duh” more often than not. I had that happen to me yesterday when I was at the Connected Health Symposium, a two-day conference sponsored by Partners Health Care Center for Connected Health. This conference was an amazing gathering of minds. It was a mix of technology experts, entrepreneurs and healthcare providers who were exchanging ideas on how the modern day issues with the cost and quality of delivering healthcare might be better solved.

Walking around the exhibition hall, the evidence of an experience driven economy was all around. Since one of the biggest threats to our future economy is the decline in the overall health of our population (and the bill that will come due as a result), allowing the ability for personal health maintenance as an experience was a big theme. In one corner, there were home- based applications designed to help people as they get older. One product in particular offered a home computer or tablet-based system with a self-care management console. Through engaging features thoughtfully designed for an aging senior, it offers an easier way to get through the business of maintaining independent living, as one grows old. In another corner, there were telemedicine devices. Through smart phones and cellular technology, patients are monitored for medically worrisome conditions while in the comfort of their own home. Physicians, who are increasingly scarce in their availability for in-person consultation time, can receive remotely transmitted monitoring data while still fully involved in managing an active medical practice.  These are just two examples of where the medical marketplace is headed and it is all about creating an experience.

Just after lunch, I watched the presentation given by this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Atul Gawande, a local surgeon from Brigham and Women’s hospital who has garnered international attention for his articulation of concern for what’s wrong with our system of healthcare. He is both a published author and a columnist for the New Yorker Magazine, as well as a public health researcher. Dr. Gawande hit the nail on the head when he talked about the disconnect between the amount of money that we spend in this country and the quality of patient outcomes. The United States spends more than any other nation on healthcare but we rank somewhere in the 20’s or 30’s for overall quality of health. One study looked within our own borders for evidence of a best practice and a narrower cost of care to quality outcome gap. What was found was eye opening. In smaller communities where health systems were coordinated and designed around the patient experience as a first priority, the amount of money spent was lower and the overall health outcomes were high. In other words, when systems were set up so that patient care was delivered in a manner where how the patient experienced care mattered more than what was delivered, costs were reduced.

Is this a fluke? No, I don’t think so. Putting the patient’s experience first means that they are subjected to less repetitive testing, a reduction in mistakes and errors due to disconnected care, and a more meaningful relationship with those in charge of their care. It is a really important example of what giving customers a meaningful experience has the potential for doing. The challenge, of course, will come in convincing medical meccas like Boston that making this transition is worth it. Presently, there are more hospitals, outpatient ambulatory care centers, imaging centers, physicians and specialists within a twenty mile radius than just about anywhere in the world. The competition is fierce and the patient’s experience certainly is not at the center of how things are done. But the bricks and mortar that draw lines around these organizations no longer need to be barriers to patient centered care. Technological enhancements via remotely controlled portable devices make it possible for the physician to have their own experience too while making the needs of the patient the priority for cost effective quality care. Examples of this type of technology were all around and on display at the conference.

It will be interesting to see how an experienced based economy will guide healthcare delivery in the next decade. For the first time in a long time, thinking about the predictions for our nation’s future seemed to have a glimmer of promise. Let’s hope that those in a position of influence have their moment of “duh” relatively soon.

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