A new kind of doctor’s office charges a monthly fee and doesn’t take insurance — and it could be the future of medicine
November 29, 2016

Op-Ed: Health Care Needs to Get More Personal

New technology and processes are making it possible to change a one-size-fits-all approach to treating patients.

By Kaveh Safavi

When it launched earlier this year, Ada shot to the top of the Apple App Store within its first week. The idea behind the artificial intelligence-powered app is helping users triage their own health care concerns through a series of easy-to-understand and tailored questions – a concept that’s widely used in many other sectors, from transportation to banking.

A number of trends are converging that will likely overturn conventional health care wisdom. Visits to doctors, hospitals and clinics are being replaced by options that are location-agnostic and decided on the patient’s terms. The one-size-fits-all approach is being supplanted by increasingly personalized options. And organizations and companies are adopting new technology and processes faster than ever before in order to embrace virtual health care.

1. Health care goes to the patient: The current assumption that we have to leave our houses to access health care – whether to go to the doctor, the clinic or the hospital – will be overturned. We are already accustomed to thinking of home health care in the case of elderly people, but it is also becoming a reality for the majority of consumers of all ages.

Colorado-based DispatchHealth, for example, claims it is “bringing back the house call with a modern technology twist.” It invites patients to describe their symptoms on its app, and provides triage services by phone, before sending an ER-trained mobile medical team to the patient’s door within an hour. Its promise is that the mobile team is equipped to treat the same range of ailments as a medical center. Not only does the service allow patients to wait in the comfort of their home instead of at a potentially crowded medical facility, but it also reduces costs to the medical practice by enabling it to avoid costly office space.

2. Care gets personal: Advances in genomics, digital imaging, therapeutics and sensors already make it possible for physicians to tailor treatments to individuals according to their genes – far more detail even for patients exhibiting identical symptoms. Researchers have, for example, divided leukemia into a number of distinct diseases, and are able to prescribe treatment accordingly.

In other sectors, meanwhile, personalization is now the name of the game. Fashion companies offer us the chance to design our own footwear; Amazon and Netflix know what we might want to buy or watch next – and offer them up to us; and supermarkets email us deals on products they know we want to buy. As customers, we have grown to expect this.

Now, health care companies are following suit and personalizing their processes. Patients are increasingly demanding access to their own electronic health records: In 2009, less than half of primary care providers used an electronic health record (EHR) system; today, 74 percent of Americans have access to some form of EHR.

Almost half of patients will switch doctors to find one that offers access to their medical records electronically. And as well as a desire for personalized information, insurance customers are likely to demand an increasingly personalized service. Already, millennials say that their main reason for switching health insurers is the quality of the service. The health insurance customers of the future will expect a more tailored service.

3. Virtual and self-service care becomes the norm: Virtual care – where a doctor or clinician is able to use digital-enabled services to deliver clinical care, support self-care or coordinate services without the need to be physically present – will become more common.

 Already, there are signs of increasing demand for this approach. One recent Accenture study shows that roughly three-quarters of U.S. consumers would be interested in using it for services ranging from consultations to reminders and follow-up appointments. Over half of respondents – 58 percent – say that they would be interested in a virtual annual physical.

Read the full article at https://www.usnews.com/news/healthcare-of-tomorrow/articles/2017-07-31/op-ed-health-care-needs-to-get-more-personal