Consumer-facing websites such as WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and HealthLine have helped provide medical information to millions of individuals around the world. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, over 70% of adult internet users have searched online for information regarding a wide-range of healthcare issues including general health, serious conditions, prescription options, procedures, nutrition, and more. While these websites used to represent both the beginning and end of the patient experience away from the doctor’s office, that is no longer the case.
As we’re seeing increasingly more consumer-facing technology with the goal of making medical treatment easier and more accessible, leading Healthcare industry brands have been presented with an exciting opportunity. Healthcare professionals can now reach out more efficiently to their patients with new features such as streamlined physician communications, hands-on research capabilities, and patient-friendly digital portals. With the many digital innovations that are changing the traditional medical treatment process, the onus has been placed on leading Healthcare brands to leverage them.
According to PatientPop, 42% of patients would like the ability to schedule an appointment online but only 17% have the ability to do so with their physician team. This leaves a huge opportunity for healthcare providers. Although online appointment making has been around for a few years, it’s apparent that patients either do not have access to such services or they are left unaware of their availability.
There are a handful of sites that specialize in online-scheduling in the medical space. From an ease-of-use and partner network standpoint, ZocDoc and DocASAP are two services leading the pack. These sites allow patients and physician searchers to find and book appointments with different specialists who meet their insurance and location needs. Doctors simply have to sign up and import their schedules so that patients, both new and existing, can then easily schedule appointments.
These services have proven to be quite successful, as more than six million consumers use Zocdoc every month. In addition to scheduling appointments, Zocdoc users can also research in-network doctor reviews and book over 1,800 medical procedures across a variety of specialties. This is especially striking as recent data from Moz shows that nearly 68% of purchasing decisions are impacted by reviews and 55% of consumers feel online reviews are important in their decision-making process.
Healthcare organizations not already participating in such online scheduling services are missing a major chunk of the market who heavily rely on online research, reviews, and customized scheduling. If you’re still unsure of the value potential of online scheduling, consider that by 2019, the value of online scheduling is projected to be upwards of $3.2 billion.
Claiming to be the “Future of the Doctor-Patient Relationship,” Medici is a new mobile application that allows providers, patients, and partners to more easily connect for simple consultations. In the spirit of life-alerting apps like Airbnb, Uber, and Amazon, Medici challenges the current healthcare model by offering a compliant system of streamlined patient-doctor communications, transparent payment systems, record-keeping, and hassle-free visits.
The app, which launched in April across all 50 states, allows a medical team of physicians and healthcare professionals to consult with their patients through the app at a fraction of the cost of traditional treatment options. Medici’s idea is that less serious conditions and ailments can be treated via texts, photos, or facetime applications; essentially eliminating costly and unnecessary in-person appointments.
This helps solve a few major issues for the healthcare industry. First, the time it takes to get into the office for an appointment can potentially be cut from days to minutes and prescriptions can be filled through the app’s E-Prescribe functionality. This all comes together to drastically reduce the effort and time it takes to see and receive feedback from a medical professional. From a convenience standpoint, this certainly challenges the status-quo and turns what can often be a timely and frustrating experience into one of ease and simplicity, all while reducing costs.
India Virtual Hospital (IVH) Patient Care
The trend toward mobile healthcare has also been seen internationally. A new app seen in India called IVH is positioned as a way for medical professional to stay in the know even as their patients are traveling away from home. If need-be, it can also help patients find a physician outside of their normal geo-location if they fall ill while traveling. This type of technology is not only beneficial to the patient, but it also presents a new advantage for participating physicians as they can remotely observe symptoms (if chosen by the patient) and allows for an easier transfer of health-care records.
According to the most recent Pulse of Online Search survey, WebMD leads the pack in terms of visits and perceived usability in the online health resource world. In an intriguing twist though, the site is also one of the lowest ranked in terms of trustworthiness. Chances are that most us have probably been shocked at the results that WebMD has given us at one point in our lives, leading to the lack of trust. However, the fact that we rely so heavily on such services shows how much consumers value its ease-of-use and sense of instant results.
A few major healthcare providers are taking the traditional “symptom checker” and making it more personable for the end user – positioning their service as both easy to use and trustworthy. One such provider, Allianz Worldwide Care, is launching an app that evaluates the current condition of a patient by asking customized questions that will help manage symptoms and assess whether or not medical treatment is needed.
There are other, similar, apps being developed as well. A team from Harvard Medical School have recently launched their AI healthcare app, Buoy, which asks a series of symptom-related questions and rules out possible conditions as it goes. Promising a more accurate diagnosis than just typing a series of symptoms into Google, Buoy gives users a list of possible responses to choose from when entering symptoms. This, in turn, helps users more accurately describe their symptoms and provides more pinpoint results. Finally, the NHS is currently testing a similar app in the UK due to be released next year.
The consumer-facing element of the Healthcare industry is changing with patients demanding more access to streamlined communications, scheduling platforms, and health/wellness resources. To help provide the new experience being demanded by patients, leading Healthcare organizations have two main options. One option is forming a partnership with third-party services like the above examples. The other option is to undertake an internal platform that contains them. Either way, such organizations will be catering to the ever-growing consumer base that requires it.
Of course, implementing such services and bringing them to market can pose significant challenges. If you have doubts on how best to implement a new application or service, especially when it comes to the unique regulatory challenges faced by the Healthcare industry, seeking professional guidance is always recommended. From making sure that your patient’s data is properly secured, to ensuring that you are in compliance with regulations such as HIPPA and the impending GDPR, there are a variety of obstacles to overcome that leading brands in other industries do not have to contend with. When implemented correctly though, the technologies discussed earlier can provide numerous benefits to both healthcare professionals and patients.
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