When it comes to digital health, access is the bare minimum: patients need high-quality healthcare experiences
The United States is not known for its accessibility to health care. But even among patients who have access in the traditional sense — with good health insurance and an abundance of doctors in their area — many are dissatisfied with the quality of care, or even suspicious of their providers.
In an increasingly resource-constrained system, patients feel they are treated as a numberunable to truly advocate for their needs during appointments that last only 18 minutes on average. This can be seen in customer experience data, with the promoter’s net score of traditional healthcare providers, averaging nine out of 100, meaning a high percentage of patients are not enthusiastic or unhappy with the current system.
Clearly, patients not only need more basic access to care, they also want access to better quality care. As telehealth has become a more important part of the healthcare system, it’s important to focus on access, but quality of care also matters. When digital health platforms are thoughtful, innovative, and focused on delivering quality care, they can offer a more inspiring vision of the future of healthcare.
Ongoing interactions generate better results
Digital health models that center telehealth thoughtfully give patients more seamless access to their providers, which can lead to better outcomes, especially when trying to find treatment for chronic conditions rather than acute ones.
When treating lifelong health issues, doctors are more likely to find the right treatment if they have continuous data: what exactly are the symptoms the patient is experiencing? When? What other factors were in play at that time? How does the treatment work? Are there any side effects? Even if patients have access to an in-person provider on a fairly regular basis, they may struggle to remember and communicate all of this information in their limited appointment time. During what may be the most difficult time in a patient’s life, the mainstream healthcare system asks them to manage their own care.
The technological nature of digital health platforms mitigates this problem: patients can record their experience over time, and physicians can easily access a wealth of patient data to iterate on the treatment plan and create a truly personalized approach. With continuous communication, patients easily communicate with their provider, instead of rushing to find a doctor if they have a problem.
Refer patients to the specialists they need
Even when patients are able to track and communicate their symptoms, they can struggle to find the right doctor to meet their needs.
Many migraine patients, for example, never even receive the correct diagnosis from their doctor, let alone a successful plan to get them out of pain. This is partly because of the lack of traditional access, but it’s also because migraine patients may never know that specialists are available to them. They may not know that affordable, accessible, expert-level care exists.
With digital health, we can empower patients to explore different pathways to care, providing an extensive network of different types of doctors as well as tools to help guide patients to the best specialists based on their symptoms. Ultimately, this means they can get the best treatment, faster.
A more integrated approach to health care
Ultimately, digital health enables a more holistic approach to care. Having more centralized digital records can make it easier for patients to transition between multiple specialists to meet different healthcare needs and make it easier for doctors to tailor their approach based on everything in a patient’s record. patient.
Recognizing that 85% of health care spending goes to treating chronic conditions, many of which are comorbid, providers must prioritize an integrated infrastructure that centers the patient, rather than a condition, and enables them to receive care for all of their diagnoses. Patients need to be able to switch between providers and modalities seamlessly, with easy access to all their information in one place. Digital health makes this smooth transition possible. But providers also need to work with patients to learn where they perceive gaps in care and understand how to close those gaps quickly, fairly, and with a high standard of care. All of this results in measurable improvements in the quality of patient care, including improvements in the net promoter score of healthcare providers.
Health care costs are obviously an access issue and need to be addressed through major systemic changes. In the long term, I believe telehealth will reduce costs by providing better preventative care and treatment for chronic conditions, thus avoiding more expensive acute care later. But until the data arrives, it’s important to recognize the other benefits that digital health offers, helping us meet patients where they are and provide them with excellent care whenever they need it. need. For me, this is the real promise of digital health.
Photo: sdecoret, Getty Images