MyDirectHealth CEO highlights three opportunities for healthcare to maximize tech options and shift power to the patients.
Consequential shifts in policy are not the only changes health systems, insurance providers, and patients will face in 2018. The year promises significant technological change as well.
Tom Cox, CEO of MyHealthDirect, a healthcare software company based in Nashville, told HealthLeaders Media he thinks three factors will affect the healthcare industry going forward. These include the rise of Millennials as consumers in the marketplace, the popularization of cloud computing technology and the push for tools to increase transparency.
“We have got to make healthcare easier for people to access,” Cox said. “It’s been a problem for the 25 years I’ve been in healthcare, and unfortunately today it’s still a challenge. People take better care of their cars than they do themselves because it’s easy to get your car serviced. Unfortunately, it’s still hard to get healthcare.”
Employing technology while accounting for risks
The healthcare industry is known for its change-averse attitude, due in part to high levels of demand compared to a limited supply, such as with physicians.
However, subtle changes in consumer approaches to healthcare, like the higher prevalence of nurse practitioners and increased utilization of urgent care facilities, have already affected business strategies.
Though technological growth in the healthcare industry has been slow, Cox is encouraged by companies embracing new innovations to improve the consumer experience. He added that healthcare companies should look to technological giants like Amazon for inspiration, arguing that if an approach can work in another industry, it can work for healthcare as well.
“It’s not as much the technology that’s holding us back in healthcare, it’s the fear of change that’s holding us back,” Cox said.
Working against the push to implement innovations like cloud computing are real concerns among healthcare leaders about security hacks affecting their bottom line. One data breach can be enough to put a company out of business, Cox said. For that reason, he advocates hiring a full-time data security manager to oversee the digital infrastructure and issue random tests to ensure employees know how to spot phishing emails.
Millennials as a positive change
Pointing to the prevalence of technology among a generation that grew up with laptops and smartphones, Cox said young adults will demand online health services. The rise in out-of-pocket copay costs is also likely to cause Millennials to expect more from their providers than previous generations.
Cox believes Millennials have the ability to effect significant change in how the healthcare industry operates through their reliance and preference for mobile devices. He suggested companies start offering scheduling capabilities to consumers through smartphone applications.
Consumer controls and improved transparency
In addition to the changes sparked by Millennials, Cox sees increasing consumer controls as a broader way to build trust and also make health systems more transparent.
One consumer control gaining traction is the price transparency mandate, which aides consumers through the process of purchasing health coverage. Some states have instituted price transparency mandates as a consumer protection, though Cox said healthcare companies should take it upon themselves to be more open with patients.
Cox said that if providers can streamline services online for consumers to access healthcare, it would be a “win-win-win.” He said such an approach would improve the overall experience for consumers because they could get the appropriate care at the appropriate time, which would ultimately lower costs for both providers and payers.
Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.