By: Susan (Zeisler) Pretnar
President at KeySys Health LLC
You may be thinking ‘Please…spare me another acronym!’. Most practices are already struggling with identifying, securing and maximizing the information technologies (IT) they’ve installed. Needing IT to manage patient relationships seems to complicate what is thought to be a comfortable, face-to-face space between the patient and the caregiver: doctor, nurse or other traditional clinician. So, what do Millenials have to do with patient relationship management (PRM)? They’re the tsunami coming our way. The future health care delivery model is quickly morphing, in no small way due to the digital natives among us.
The IT part of the healthcare story is no longer very clear, especially because of the proliferation of mobile devices and myriad data communication alternatives. The younger the caregiver and the deeper we get into the meaningful use of electronic medical records, the softer the protest at having been dragged into that world. A few are actually starting to see benefits, while others still feel hindrances.
IT has an impact on:
• Market share
• Patient acquisition and retention
• Employee satisfaction
• Brand image
• Profit margins
• Cost reduction
• Organizational efficiency/productivity
All of these things contribute to the practice and to patient relationships. If you are not aware of the potential impact of IT on the items in this list, you probably are not convinced that investing further in IT is a valuable ‘spend’ for your practice. Finding the long term ROI in IT expenditures for operations makes selecting the right ICD10 code seem simple. Until recently, healthcare had few of the characteristics of a ‘market’, including the influence of its users. It appears that a true healthcare market, foisted on us by the totally connected Millenials, may finally emerge. It would be one with standard benchmarks and recognizable comparatives. So, why does this seem to be happening now?
A finger can be pointed at the Millenials in our midst. As a group, they will become the largest demographic in the next 10 years. That means Millenials will represent the majority of the patients in your practice (estimated to be 75%), save for the average geriatric specialist. They have faith in technologies and services that can bypass the traditional doctor or hospital delivery systems. The shear size of their generation means that they will have an impact.
Millenials have already influenced many other industries, as a direct result of their swift adoption of digital gadgets. I say swift because truly the smartphone started it all, and was introduced a mere 8 years ago. Can you name a proven clinical practice or procedure that has been embraced by all of healthcare in less than 8 years? Even for non-Millenials, smartphones, tablets and wearable electronics are ubiquitous in everyday life.
Millenials are disrupting healthcare delivery systems just as they impacted traditional paper media, financial services, and brick and mortar sales of goods and services. They are comfortable getting their healthcare information from Google – and they believe it. Aren’t we all getting just like them? We also want same day appointments, online scheduling and bill payment, electronic access to our medical records and the option to text or email our providers. And, we all assume someone else is handling privacy and security matters.
Providers say that it is not their fault that patients aren’t ‘engaged’, but we may soon be crying that Millenials are pushing us too fast to accept bi-directional communication with them. They believe that their patient generated health data (ugh - PGHD!) is valuable information to share, not just on Facebook, but also with their doctor. They already self-monitor with Fitbits or one of the 40,000 health related apps they can download to multiple mobile devices. This group is questioning the traditions of healthcare: where it is delivered and by whom.
I bought a smartphone in order to communicate with my grandchildren (text only of course), and to enable me to access business emails from literally anywhere in the world. We’re pushed privately and professionally to adopt the latest technologies. Secure IT belongs in any strategy around patient relationship management. Perhaps it is beyond time for healthcare to accept the meaningful use of technology, instead of quibble over the meaningful use of electronic medical records. As has been eloquently stated by others ‘if we are going to live in interesting times, there is no reason not to embrace them’.