The "Simple" Button
Where is the "Simple" button for healthcare?
By: Badri Narasimhan
A rudimentary healthcare delivery workflow goes something like this…
- Patient has a medical need
- The patient or their caregiver reaches out
- Patient gets the care
- Care is documented
- Follow up is scheduled
That sounds fantastic. We only hope it is that simple. The reality of the matter is that significant investments have been made by health systems in the last mile of the care, the documentation of the care, etc. With the advent if risk-based health, a lot of good work has been done in follow-ups as well. One would argue telemedicine has solved any and all patient access issues – until we take a step back and peer into the front offices of health systems and practices.
To call the front desk phone lines a mess would be being kind. A practice gets about 60-100 phone calls per provider per day!!! Let us try and digest that. The provider sees 10 patients a day. Each appointment downstream generates 3+ calls back. Each new patient has several calls and other health entities have reasons to call. With billions if not trillions spent on technology, why is the good old phone still the primary mode of communication for the patient?
You say patient portals are magical and took all patient needs into account and resolved them. Statistics are far from it. The average practice has 7% adoption of patient portals. 93 out of 100 patients do not find that to be the simple solution it is made out to be. Make no mistake – I myself am a patient portal user. I remember to not reuse my last 5 passwords, I have to save the user name, download the app, leave a message and have no clue of whether or when my call will be returned. And…if 2 days go by with silence, guess what, I call the practice and ask if they read my portal message upon which time, they admit they had but it is buried in a bunch of other work items.
Patients need a “simple” button. I would have said they need the Easy button, but I am not a glutton for trademark violations! That button is taken! The “simple” button should relieve the patient of the undue burden to access care. It should keep them abreast of the status of their request, it should proactively work with them to avoid the call, it should give them a better experience. Technologically challenged people will never use such “simple” buttons you say? Drive by a bank branch and see what purposes force someone to stand in line to talk to the teller and whether people of all ages drive by the ATM to get the job done. I would argue that the technologically challenged crowd (old or young) need a simple way to get their work done. If they trusted a machine to dish out money and keep their life’s savings safely, as long as it is simpler than standing in line and showing their ID and talking to a human…they will trust their phones to reach their provider. We owe it to ourselves to make it simple.
The cost of healthcare is a tricky subject with no one taking ownership of what drives it. It is the politicians, it is pharma, it is hospitals, the doctor and so on. I do not think any one of us would say that healthcare is simple – we can all agree that we play a part in making it tedious and complaining about it. We need the first mile of healthcare to be simple. It is time we made it simple.
Have a debate? Have your own perspectives? Talk to me about it.
Badri Narasimhan at firstname.lastname@example.org