Let’s just say I had a recent, first-hand experience with my healthcare that brought to light how accustomed the “connected and communicating consumer” has grown to instantaneous communications and gratification in everything…except healthcare. I’d venture to say that it also reaffirms that 2013 will be the year of the empowered, truly engaged patient.
During a recent routine refill, I was unable to fill a regular monthly maintenance prescription because my insurer was transitioning to a pharmacy benefit manager to mail those prescriptions in bulk periodically throughout the year.
In an ideal world, the fluid communications between my insurer, provider and pharmacy retailer would have looked something like this:
That’s me being properly informed about a change, allowing me to prepare accordingly and utilize this mailing benefit (you mean I don’t have to leave my house to get my prescription? Awesome!).
That of course did not happen. I certainly expected a few back and forths with the insurer, pharmacy retailer and my PCP – probably something that looked a little like this:
What happened instead was something that looked more like this:
The most jarring part of this entire experience that cannot be visually displayed here was that 90% of the communications were accomplished in-person and virtually, with the insurer on my cellphone, placing me on periodic holds while calling the pharmacy technician that stood in front of me – all in about an hour. A few disclaimers before going on:
Disclaimer#1: I am that millenial who cannot imagine life before smartphones (how did anyone ride the bus?!) and expects instantaneous interactions in daily life. Without push notifications and banking transfers at the tip of my fingertips, business as usual would be like trying to walk around in wet jeans – slow and painful. My consumer expectations for mobile capabilties are thus high – very high – and that certainly doesn’t exclude healthcare. I’m not alone though. As my colleague noted in an earlier post, more than half of the respondents in The PwC Health Research Institute survey expressed the desire for true mHealth capabilities as well.
Disclaimer #2: A healthy PR professional and who uses her smartphone as a crutch to life and rarely needs to interact with her healthcare providers is probably a little more analytical and critical of the communication flaws in the system as well as the speed and alacrity of those in the continuum of her healthcare.
That being said, this was certainly not a normal scenario but it was very apparent where the communication gaps occurred and is a great example of a patient’s eagerness to engage. In an ideal world, a secure network would be in place that would connect these key parties as well as all other major stakeholders in the patients care, like a private Google+ group for each individual’s healthcare. Such a secure network would completely eliminate the shuffle and allow each stakeholder in this patients “medical home” to post and pose questions to all of the key players in our healthcare and ensure that we’re all at the same page at the same time. The technology to make this a reality certainly exists.
The real question is will the policies and cross-sector coordination needed to bring this to fruition ever happen? Or is there an even better model to communicate with our providers?
Or am I just dreaming?