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by Ryan Hamilton
Published on April 18, 2018

This article originally appeared in Perspectives, Cerner's thought leadership publication. Download your digital copy of Perspectives here. 

Over the next ten years, the business of health care will change significantly. The last decade has been focused on the digitization of workflows, which has created an opening for new advancements in health care. Technology enablers like telehealth, cloud, block chain and the Internet of Things (IoT), juxtaposed with the need for clinicians to improve health outcomes and drive personal accountability in health care, creates an industry ripe for consumer transformation.
While the internet was invented at DARPA in 1970, the digital revolution started to explode in the 1990s. Tim Berners-Lee launched the first commercial web browser, Nexus. Subsequently, the Mosaic browser – complete with a graphical user interface – brought the power of the Internet to the masses. Google made finding information seamless and easy, while Amazon and eBay pioneered new models of e-commerce.
In the last 20 years, the web has grown from a small handful of academic and scientific websites to almost unfettered access to every topic imaginable, while our lives and data become connected. Each day, we exchange close to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that's 2,500,000 terabytes).
The way we experience technology is getting more sophisticated, pervasive and transparent. Today, it is a natural part of our lives. With a smartphone and an app, I can deposit a check to my Bank of America account while sitting in an Uber that's taking me to Starbucks to pick up a cup of joe, which I purchased with a smartphone app that allowed me to order ahead and skip the line. I did this all without my wallet, since my phone acted as my payment device. This is all to say that what was once science fiction is now our reality. Today, what the industries are doing is moving the workflow from a physical space to the digital ecosystem. This allows them to redefine the space.    

The heart of consumerism

Consumers want technology to work for them and to help make their lives simpler. This is the heart of consumerism, and some companies get it. Take Capital One, for example: The financial services giant spent years collecting data and insights on their customer base to better understand and create a segmentation strategy using analytics. Capital One sought to better understand its customers’ needs and moved its business to a digital platform. By investing in digital talent and revamping the company’s IT workforce, Capital One created a secure foundation for its online and mobile platforms to thrive. By 2013, the company reported that 75 percent of its customer interactions were conducted digitally.
Capital One 360, the company’s online customer portal, use insights and analytics to help customers navigate and respond based on a gamification approach, which rewards desired behaviors and improves customer satisfaction. Among other things, Capital One 360 provides customers with progress bars, status updates and the ability to earn badges based on interactions.
Additionally, Capital One has also started opening Capital One Cafes in large markets around the US to better connect with millennials. The cafes are a hybrid between an automated bank and co-working locale. Customers can hook up to free Wi-Fi, buy Peet’s Coffee, receive answers to financial questions, bank and more. This move is an effort to create a youthful brand and a rich customer experience outside of the customer portal.
Another example of a company using technology and consumerism to challenge the norm is WeWork. The company leases co-working spaces to 100,000 members in 30 cities around the world with the mission to improve their members’ lives and to “create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.” The company is using sensor technology, analytics, design research and the power of IoT to transform the modern work space. Research and the ability to extract analytics from everything within its design is at the core. The company adheres to strict branding and a consistent look and feel for each site. While the furniture, wall color and coffee shop are identical, WeWork can focus on studying other variables, such as site views or pricing, that make one location more popular than another. Always with a focus on the customer, WeWork offers on-demand memberships and a mobile app that allows members to interact with their space and provide feedback.
Health systems and hospitals need to draw from these lessons in order to better serve the changing needs of their patients and customers. Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2017 report highlights this shift in mindset around technology and the consumer, stating: "Rather than people adapting to technology, people are shaping technology to adapt to us."

Digital disruption at work

Gartner defines digital disruption as a core shift in “expectations and behaviors in a culture, market, industry, technology or process that is caused by, or expressed through, digital capabilities, channels or assets.”
The health care sector has been slow to fully embrace a digital mindset, but it is not immune to disruption. As solutions and delivery models continue to evolve, providers and payors interaction with consumers must change. There are numerous hurdles for healthcare organizations to overcome. Various regulations, strict data security needs and fragmented and physician-centric systems throttle, in many ways, pace of innovation and disruption in the industry.
The tools and raw ingredients already exist today. The ability to understand and predict the health outcomes of various populations will be assisted by technological innovations already formed today. Telehealth, IoT and mobile health provide opportunities to reach those who may have been under-served before. But organizations are moving beyond those technologies. Virtual and augmented reality equipment have made inroads with patients, especially children who use Virtual Reality to calm them prior to a procedure. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital are just two examples of programs leveraging this technology to enhance the child’s experience in the care setting. Augmented reality and virtual reality will be used remotely by physicians to perform certain treatments. Gartner estimates that by 2018, 40 percent of primary care encounters in the U.S. will delivered in a virtual manner.

Ultimately, there are three fundamental pieces that need to exist to create consumerism in health care:

  1. Digital longitudinal record for each person, which includes more than clinical and financial data. It should include social, physical, behavioral and environmental determinants of health.
  2. A personalized plan for each individual that matches their unique needs to the skills and abilities of their community.
  3. A digital ecosystem that moves workflows above the venue of care and helps health care redefine the space. 

The true digital health care revolution — similar to the original digital revolution back in the 90s when the browser first launched — involves building a digitally connected ecosystem that will be the foundation for health care providers to better understand, evaluate and precisely predict health interventions, choose proper care delivery and improve patient segmentation to create a more seamless experience.  According to Accenture, 66 percent of health organizations are moving toward a digital ecosystem, which will be designed with the human in mind. In addition to electronic health records other data inputs will improve customer insights. Interoperability that allows providers and consumers to exchange information seamlessly will be critical, not only across physical locations, but increasingly across digital divides.

In each issue of Perspectives, you’ll gain exclusive access to the leading voices, insights and industry analysis of some of the most innovative minds in health IT today. Download Cerner’s Perspectives for exclusive content from leaders in health care.

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