All the talk about interoperability in healthcare misses the point, according to Rick Halton, vice president of Lumeon, a European automated care pathway platform provider that moved in to the US market last fall.
For Halton the place to start is with the appointment reminder. “It’s so basic,” he said in a recent interview. “But a lot of providers are struggling with medical appointment reminders because of the need to tie in to the medical records. It’s taking so long to get there.”
Halton points out his barber and his vet can manage to remind him of appointments – so why can’t his doctor?
Medical appointment reminders are symbolic of the many ways healthcare simply does not make it easy for patients – or providers, he said. He points to other industries, like the airlines, that have managed to make the entire experience simple, streamlined and mobile/online. Book a flight on your phone, or change it. Get a text on your phone if your flight is delayed. Find out which carousel your baggage is in.
Medical appointment reminders and readiness
It’s a stark contrast to healthcare. “We need to fix the broken appointment experience,” he said. It starts with pre-appointment readiness and a reminder about paperwork, insurance information and even directions to the facility. And it can go further. “’By the way, the physician is running 30 minutes late, so your appointment time has been shifted,’” Halton said. “A provider knows how the day is going. That information needs to be easily communicated to the patient in advance.”
And when the appointment is done, and the patient is referred elsewhere, another opportunity to automate and simplify the process exists, Halton said. “We need to make sure the patient arrives at the recommended outpatient center and that they’re engaged along the way so they’re not lost.”
His vision carries this streamlined automation through a hospital stay and beyond. And it’s not only a way to boost patient satisfaction (and care). There’s more than a little in it for providers (and perhaps even for payers). “This could be a big brand differentiator for them,” Halton said. “Providers can create their own digital patient experiences.”
But unlike barbers and veterinarians, there’s a lot holding doctors and practices and hospitals back because they see problems like medical appointment reminders as simply too overwhelming to tackle. “What you see in healthcare today is providers throwing people at the problem. It’s a good way to do business in the short term but in the long term it becomes expensive.”
Halton’s advice is to turn the problem on its head. “It’s not really the technical problems that need to be solved. We can exchange data. We need to solve the commercial problem. That’s how we can move on to engaging the pathway of the patient and solving problems.”