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In the Future, It's All About the Patient's Experience

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, September 16, 2009

In this month's HealthLeaders magazine cover story, I wrote about the patient of the future. From adopting (and adapting to) new technologies to building better doctor-patient relationships to making it easier for patients to get information about their health to making it easier for them to book appointments, the predictions in the article all have one thing in common: They improve the patient experience.

The changes may also make life easier for physicians, specialists, and other healthcare professionals. They might even save hospitals and physician practices money. They might increase market share. They might give your brand and reputation a boost. They might get you some ink in the local papers.

But the bottom line is that it's not about you. In the future, it's all about the patient and how he or she experiences the healthcare system.

The predictions outlined in the article aren't going to happen overnight and they won't be easy to pull off. They'll require investment of time and money and a serious shift in attitude about "The Way We Do Things."

The biggest barrier is attitude
There will be those who are skeptical about some of the predictions the sources in the story made. For example, I suspect many will scoff at the idea that, in the future, patients will take ownership of their own health—despite the growing number of wellness programs and the trend toward rewarding people for taking better care of themselves.

And plenty of physicians will say they just don't have time to e-mail patients—even though those who do say it's much more convenient than returning phone calls.

And I suspect there will always be doctors who think that they know best and who are insulted when a patient brings in computer printouts about alternative treatments for his or her condition or information about a new drug or the results of a new study—even though more and more consumers are turning to the Internet for health-related information.

And you know what? It's your prerogative to be skeptical. Hey, if you don't want to invest in an online appointment-booking program because you think it's too expensive or you worry that the program will somehow break down and schedule 100 patients in the same 20-minute slot, then continue to do things the same old way.

But if you want to stay competitive, want to grow (or at least hold onto) your market share, you ought to at least consider some of the scenarios outlined in the article.

What do you think? Are the predictions about the patient of the future on the mark or off the wall? Head on over to today's post on the MarketShare blog to share your thoughts—and make some predictions of your own.


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