Over the last twenty years, there has been a concerted effort by companies across many different industries to make convenience for their customer a core tenet of their offering.  Food delivery used to require fumbling around with menus, making a phone call, and then having no concept of whether dinner was arriving in 15 minutes or 50.  Calling a taxi was hit-or-miss, especially when you had to get to the airport. Buying a new iPhone, for some people, meant camping outside of a store.

While hundreds of billions of dollars of investments has gone toward advances necessary to making “purchasing” as easy as clicking a button, healthcare remains mired in an intimidating cycle of inconvenience and frustration. The unfortunate reality is that many patients delay recommended care or diagnostics because of the inconvenience. Once we lose that impetus to address our needs, it often fades into the background, meaning late diagnoses and even more costly treatment in the long run.

The best way to encourage patients to take control of their care is to make it easy for them. This means online scheduling (who wants to talk to a human these days!?), wide availability (early, late, weekends), and making sure they have transparent cost information at their fingertips. To take this even further, make the total time required to get that care significantly less than they’re used to – 50%, even 80% shorter. Removing the commute time to a doctor’s office or a lab does almost all of that by itself, but the model only works if the same quality of care can be delivered.

Of course, we can’t move all medical interactions into the home, nor should we. But the home global healthcare market size is already large, and growing rapidly — projected to reach $273.9 billion by 2027  from $181.9 billion in 2020. Several key drivers have brought about this trend: rapid growth in the elderly population, a rising incidence of chronic diseases, a growing need for cost-effective healthcare delivery due to increasing healthcare costs, and technological advancements of home care devices, to name a few.

Ultimately, flipping the experience of healthcare and bringing it into the home can significantly move it from headache-inducing to – dare we dream? –  pleasant. However, it , must also come with at least cost neutrality, or better yet, a reduction in expenses.  If a patient is already at the doctor’s office and they have a lab onsite, the patient should use that lab. If they have no mobility or time constraints, going to a facility will often be more affordable (even if it’s significantly less convenient). However, when it comes to foregoing care, the cost implications can be dramatic. In many situations, early diagnosis leads to early intervention, and early intervention leads to a better outcome for the patient, the provider, and the payer.

Where home care can really shine is within value-based care arrangements. Finding out someone has hypertension early can lead to medication that reduces the likelihood of heart failure, and paying for an in-home checkup is well worth the expense for the overall savings it can confer to whoever has payment responsibility.  A recalcitrant patient may be willing to spend 5 minutes of their day instead of 90 for this type of check-up, and a true “win-win” can be achieved.  Of course, stratification for risk is how the economics ultimately work, which means significant investment on the data and analysis side of the care providers or payers – you don’t suddenly want to do in-home checks for all of America, at least not until we have flying clinical drones.

Healthcare of the future can look a lot like healthcare of the present, just quicker, more convenient, and more affordable when you consider the full journey of patients and dollars. We don’t need magic technology to solve these problems, we just need a commitment for different organizations within the value chain to work together, even if that means a small incremental expense to save significantly later on. This is achievable today; one day soon, getting basic diagnostics will be as easy as getting food delivered to your home.

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MedCity News | August 29th, 2022

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