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On-Demand Healthcare: How Access and Information are Changing the Game

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Jake Miller

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For anyone who has sat on hold for eternity to make a doctor’s appointment, sat in a waiting room or sat in an exam room where they waited some more, it may be hard to imagine a world that has on-demand healthcare.

But, it’s happening – sort of. Whether it’s in the form of common urgent care clinics (old school, I know), video appointments and digital diagnostics (still fairly rare), one-click access to vital health information, or other aspects of the patient experience, healthcare is starting to find its way in the “I want it five minutes ago” culture we live in.

For those of us in the marketing and communications world, this is significant. Healthcare remains pricey, oftentimes convoluted and has market challenges tied to narrow networks. The patient experience is at the forefront of on-demand healthcare.

That focus makes our role in educating and communicating with consumers critically important. We must work to help them understand the changes and why they’re beneficial.

The question of how to market and communicate in this world is for another day. Let’s first look at a few organizations starting to get things right when it comes to on-demand healthcare.

And to be clear, when I say on-demand healthcare, I’m talking about services, tools and technologies that remove barriers. These make it easier – and faster – to get the healthcare and information you want as a patient and consumer.

On-demand digital access is the top priority

When it comes to access to care, telemedicine remains the industry buzzword that carries the most hope.

Telemedicine has been around for decades, since the first X-ray was sent electronically. But until recently, telemedicine departments were underfunded, understaffed. They didn’t have the technology to keep up with physician and patient needs. That’s not the case any longer.

Health systems and tech companies are investing heavily because telemedicine improves timely access for patients (and saves hospitals money).

One of the most visible and successful platforms to date is SnapMD. In the early days, many healthcare systems would piece together telemedicine systems, which resulted in inconsistent experiences, frustration when technology didn’t work and problems with infrastructure that made it more of a burden than an asset. Additionally, patients weren’t quite used to digital interaction.

Also, telemedicine usually meant going to a doctor’s office, only to video conference with a specialist at another location. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s not nearly the same as being able to connect to your doctor without going to a doctor’s office.

With SnapMD, or the other programs, virtual visits are now turnkey for any health system – small or large – that opts to use such a service. They’re HIPAA compliant, images are fantastic and patients are increasingly more comfortable talking to a camera from home or a remote clinic as they are with FaceTiming grandma.

Nothing is without its flaws; telemedicine, despite the optimism and investment, remains underutilized. But SnapMD is great, because as a patient I can have a virtual visit on my phone. I say “ahh.” Doc gets a look at my throat. And I’m off to pick up a prescription. No waiting room with the walking dead – just an on-demand diagnosis from my couch.

Sick at work, stay at work

At-work healthcare clinics have increased in popularity over the years, as businesses have searched desperately to reduce healthcare costs for their organizations and employees. Some businesses have seen cost reduction and others haven’t, but each change made it easier to get to a doctor. It’s a lot easier to walk down the hall than to drive across town.

But the alliance between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan is what I’m most interested to watch when it comes to businesses managing their own healthcare.

What this group ultimately will produce remains to be seen but two things are almost certain: It will disrupt the current model to some degree and it most certainly will be on-demand. If I can get a case of limited-edition flavored Pringles on Prime in less than 24 hours (I know a guy who did this), then it will be fascinating to see how this Amazon-fueled dream-team expedites access to care.

Most likely, the alliance will ultimately have its own doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals and some of the greatest logistics technology available. What’s coming is largely unknown but if this group of organizations can fix what’s broken first for their own employees, the model will be in demand, not only on demand.

Lifesaving information: On-demand and on your wrist

I know, I know, Apple gets enough attention. But in this instance, I can’t help myself and it’s all because of the newest Apple Watch.

In case you missed it, the Apple Watch 4 now has FDA clearance—a first for this type of device. While a number of caveats exist (Read this for more details), the watch, according to the federal government, can accurately detect irregular heartbeats for people over 22 years old.

That’s on-demand information that can save your life, and it’s only the beginning. Apple has launched a study with Stanford Medicine to learn more about how the device detects irregular heart rhythms, including atrial fibrillation, which is a leading cause of stroke. Already, more than 400,000 people have enrolled.

Imagine getting notified by your watch that you need emergency care – long before you feel any symptoms?

Who knows what other diagnostics the watch may ultimately be able to provide in real time. A wearable watch band that measures blood pressure? Temperature? Dehydration? Breathing patterns?

What if you could automatically send that data to your doctor and they could take action in real time? That’s on-demand before you even know you have a demand.

Getting comfortable with on-demand healthcare

It’s one thing to discreetly order bulk hemorrhoid cream from Amazon Prime. It’s another to drop trou and show your doctor a worrisome mole on your butt cheek via an iPhone camera (better sign up for yoga now).

And that’s why effective marketing and communication will be critical as these technologies and delivery models increase in prevalence. Consumers need to understand that quality and privacy aren’t put at risk to improve convenience.

That trust and understanding starts to grow first through patient education and storytelling funneled into the correct media channels. We as marketers do this very well, which is why we need to be prepared to be in-demand to position on-demand healthcare as the future.

Jake Miller

Could talk for hours about the intricacies of Waffle House.

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