Does the health and human service field want “tech-enabled” consumers? I think so, but I’m not always sure. The response of many managers and clinical professionals that I know is mixed.
The advantages? Tech-enabled consumers can more easily “self-manage” their own care and reduce health care spending (see Ohio Moving IDD Services To Consumer Self-Directed Model and An Online Guide To “Self-Health” Trackers And Apps). Tech-enabled consumers can be “part of your labor force” and reduce operating costs (see The Disruption Of Strategy). The disadvantages? Tech-enabled consumers have access to on-line ratings (see Ratings & More Ratings and How Is CMS Measuring “Consumer Satisfaction”?). Tech-enabled consumers have access to decision support tools, and can challenge recommendations from health care professionals (see Consumer Diagnose Thyself!). Tech-enabled consumers expect their health plans and provider organizations to use technology to increase their “convenience” factor (see On-Line Doctor/Patient Communication Service Increases Satisfaction & Reduces Cost and How Far Are You Willing To Go To Improve Consumer Satisfaction?).
But, a significant factor in the future competitiveness of payer and provider organizations is using technology to improve decision making, outcomes, and convenience. So, if you’re trying to create a sea of tech-enabled consumers, what do you do? Recognize which consumers need the additional engagement, select the tools with the best outcomes, and reset your organizational tempo to deal with consumers on their own time frame. That three-step process was the advice of our panel at the session, How To Create Tech-Enabled Consumers: Using Technology To Increase Consumer Engagement & Build Relationships, at the 2014 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute. The panel featured Jonathan Evans, President & Chief Executive Officer, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health; Deb L. Heggie, Ph.D., Corporate Chief Clinical Officer, Magellan Healthcare; Elizabeth Kwo, MD, Vice President, Provider Network, American Well; and Raymond T. Heipp, Ph.D., Director of Assistive and Educational Technologies, Westminster Technologies, Inc. – with expert facilitation by my colleague, OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, George Braunstein.
Dr. Kwo of American Well and Dr. Heipp of Westminster Technologies work with two distinct types of consumer-facing technologies – on-demand telehealth services and robotics, respectively. From Dr. Kwo’s perspective, the key to a successful technology interface with consumers is having resources available at the moment that consumers need them. Most consumers assume all services in other fields need to be “on demand.” Dr. Kwo’s question – if online banking services need to be “now”, why shouldn’t health care services be offered in the same way? With currently available technology, clinical professionals can see consumers within two minutes, and managers of provider organizations need to recognize this and address this as part of their competitive strategy. The keys to keep in mind when developing this strategy – adopt the proper technology; support your clinical professionals through licensing, credentialing, and training; and track clinical quality.
Dr. Heipp’s work is with assistive technologies for consumers with special needs. Among their many technologies offerings is NAO, a humanoid robot created to help children with autism and other differing abilities. In that context, Dr. Heipp’s advice for managers of provider organizations was to understand how technologies mesh together with traditional services to form a service “whole” that is larger than the parts. And, managers should look for solutions that combine technologies to get additional leverage. An example of this? Robots that can increase consumer engagement, and track data from every interaction. In a data-driven world, this kind of “two-for-one” tool that keeps consumers engaged and supports metrics-based management needs to be part of provider organizations strategic planning sessions.
Jonathan Evans of Safe Harbor brought to the discussion the perspective of the management team of a provider organization. He stressed the need for a change in perspective where clinical professionals realize that a large proportion of a consumer’s time is not in treatment. Tech-enabled services provide an opportunity to keep consumers engaged actively between face-to-face sessions. Provider organizations can only make this work if they “market” tech tools to both consumers and the clinical professionals – and also show positive results to payers.
Dr. Heggie of Magellan focused on the perspective of payers and their gains from tech-enabled consumers. Magellan is using computerized cognitive behavioral therapy, telehealth, live chat, and mobile engagement to engage with their members – and expand their care and care management beyond face-to-face interactions (see Magellan Health To Offer Expanded Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Services and Health Plans Are Big Investors In Consumer Health Monitoring Technology). Her advice was to expand on this engagement by stressing that provider organizations need to interact with consumers in any way possible – which she called “an open door policy.” This means, if your consumers only engage using specific communication channels (e.g. telephones, smartphones, online, email, or social media) you need to learn their channels of communication preference, and use them.
Where are we at with adoption of consumer-facing treatment technology? For an update, check out these resources in our Industry Library:
- For Tech-Enabled Consumer Health Education, Engagement = Success
- Smart Homes = New Consumer Choice
- The Soon-To-Be Consumer-Facing EHR
- What Apps Are Your Consumers Using?
- The Emerging Group Of ‘Active’ Consumer Technologies
- Where To Start With Treatment Technology – Defining The Treatment Function & The Consumer Interface Are First Steps
I think that consumer adoption of, and preference for, technology is on a rapid pace (see Follow Your Consumers…To The Internet and Where Will Consumers Find You? Online). The question – can management teams of health and human service organizations keep pace?