"Treat" patients with big data insights

In today’s retail age of deep customer insights, targeted customer communications, and honoring customer preference in nearly every market segment, why doesn't the healthcare value chain treat patients the same big data insights? Is it the fear of violating patient privacy or HIPPA? That is a valid concern, yet are organizations utilizing the maximum acceptable level of patient interactions? To read the blog from Liz Boehm’s blog on Forrester.com, Pharmacy Customer Experience Flaws -- Why Communication Is Key In Healthcare,   I would say NO. On a monthly basis, I receive calls on my home answering machine regarding my family's prescriptions. Therefore I do believe more can be done, and still be HIPPA compliant.

Is it the cost of infrastructure to accumulate, institutionalize and act on consumer information? Again, a reasonable rationale for delaying advancements, yet relatively low cost - and improved customer insights are an asset- no matter where your organization is in the healthcare value chain.  In business terms: what is the annuity value these days for a loyal patient?  What about the value of a positive rating in healthcare delivery excellence- won’t this be a new payment basis in the future? In patient health terms: what is the likelihood of patient compliance under the supervision of a trusted healthcare advisor who respects their preferences compared to a brief healthcare discussion during an annual physical?

Is it the lack of interest in changing the relationship? Or is it just too low on the priorities list? When insightful patient interactions become a competitive advantage or it defines a market leader- it will become a priority to the C-suite! Given all the healthcare surveys and questionnaires patients are required to complete coupled with the transactional data produced at every healthcare interaction - if anything healthcare should be AHEAD of other industries! I believe the lack of advancement can be attributed to each of the resistance issues listed above, coupled with the lack of customer centric expertise and interest- after all- isn’t there a shortage of healthcare providers? Supply and demand principals must apply here, right?

Liz Boehm’s blog on Forrester.com tells a very real patient experience indicative of the lack of patient/customer focus in this particular large retailers’ pharmacy department. This retailer has the mechanisms in place to improve the customer experience of their retail patrons, yet in the pharmacy space, the relationship with the patient is considered different, non-existent. Sure healthcare benefit structures, product formularies, and patients’ copays change over time- most on January 1 of each year. Yet, shame on the plan or pharmacy providers for neglecting to educate or connect the dots for consumers on this!

The capabilities exist, YET the industry must be willing. In the age where every other industry – from entertainment, to education, to banking, to consumer goods – is already segmenting, marketing, and responding to customer preferences- the healthcare industry is kidding itself it believes it can ignore the society norm for much longer, after all - isn’t healthcare a service industry? Aren’t there healthcare choices for most of us- even in narrow or closed networks? Won’t there be even more choices when “consumer centric retail insurance” and Insurance Exchanges are launched?

I predict the service providers throughout the healthcare continuum that become patient centric first will win the patient- at least as long as good medicine is practiced and until big contracts force tough economic trade-offs. And those in the health care market that are patient centric THROUGHOUT the healthcare continuum will prevail. An insightful corporate pharmacy vice president told me “if we don’t change the way we do business with our customers- the patient- we will become the next Blockbuster Video Store”- gone! Serviced by the on-line community where customer preferences are tracked and honored, whether the patient is searching for convenience, cost management or patient counseling – all these patient centric needs can be serviced on-line.

Lack of meaningful patient-centric healthcare communication is the issue at hand, so what is the solution? Start with Big Data then segment into small groups, gain the Customer Insights, choreograph customer interaction, add a loop for continuous improvement, and then expand. I am not minimizing the resources required or trivialize the cultural transformations required to move forward- yet it can be done, other industries prove it every day and are already testing methods we are yet to imagine.

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    Welcome to the SAS Health and Life Sciences blog. We explore how the health care ecosystem – providers, payers, pharmaceutical firms, regulators and consumers – can collaboratively use information and analytics to transform health quality, cost and outcomes.
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