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It’s no secret that US healthcare is flawed, but our ability to propose and implement solutions is flawed too. Innovators are required to meet many legal and regulatory requirements to get a seat at the table. As a result, healthcare is still very inaccessible to those that need it most — especially with things like information and transparent reviews to the care itself.
Healthcare innovation as a concept will often make people think about healthcare solutions through vaccines, breakthrough treatments and artificial intelligence. But the consumer-facing side of healthcare is something that needs more attention, too. This refers to the aspects of healthcare that impact the patient experience, whether it be accessing information, video calling with a physician or using a patient portal. What’s interesting, however, is how few of these solutions exist to connect patients with one another. The problem this creates is that patients make very big decisions with very little information.
McKinsey & Company found in their 2019 Consumer Health Insights Survey that only a fraction of people had been able to find the information they sought when making healthcare decisions. Therefore, people are less likely to explore their options — they are essentially relying on the advice of a salesperson.
The need for human connection
Healthcare is a deeply emotional industry. The decisions made by top-level management right down to the providers have a direct impact on people’s lives, and patients experience every step of it on a visceral level. It’s a journey that patients should not have to go through alone. In fact, people seek out human connection when they do have to go through a healthcare episode — it’s only normal for us to bring family or close friends to important healthcare meetings.
Additionally, many of us have experienced that immediate spark with someone when we find out we share a mutual experience. Maybe you meet a colleague who also had a hip replacement or a friend of a friend who is thinking about laser eye surgery too. Whatever it might be, the connection at that moment always makes us feel less alone and offers a new component to our healthcare journey that we might not have even previously considered.
How can healthcare be more accessible?
When we talk about accessible healthcare, a large element to this means accessing reliable, unbiased information. Inevitably physicians and healthcare institutions are influenced by various biases, but often this is the only source of information available for patients. We can’t check out a surgeon or medical practice’s review the way we would a restaurant or new product. But sometimes the best solution is the simplest one. And a very simple solution to making healthcare more accessible would be making it easier for patients to connect. Healthcare resources don’t necessarily have to be complex technological solutions — it can be as simple as establishing the infrastructure to allow patients to find one another. The connection between two patients is far more powerful than the text on a forum board.
The future of healthcare is community
Often bad healthcare experiences come from patients feeling unsupported. We have witnessed unlikely communities form around products like Tesla and Peloton, so there’s no reason community can’t become more commonplace in healthcare. People who go through healthcare experiences will connect on social media and in online forums because we crave that mutual connection from people who understand what we are going through. Healthcare innovation covers a broad spectrum of things, but facilitating infrastructure for community could go a long way in targeting many of the accessibility shortcomings in healthcare, which directly correlates to the emotional and interpersonal.
Most of us have gone our whole lives believing that healthcare is something that simply must remain elusive. We have come to accept that not having all the information is just part of the healthcare experience. But the future of healthcare innovation is not just in medicine and device technology, but in the social experiences too. Community has the potential to rewrite the healthcare experience and have a profound impact on the way people seek out and receive treatment.