As technology has changed, so has the interaction between the health care provider and the patient. We all know about advances in medicine has improved as technology has improved. But one area I think that goes unnoticed is the interactions a patient has with the health care team, because it is no the sexy lifesaving topics.
Today we can go on to the world wide web and misdiagnose our own symptoms through WebMD. One organization that is trying to get behind digitizing their medical business is the Veterans Administration (VA). Prior to a recent push in digitization, the VA kept hard copies of all claims and records. Since 2012 the VA has converted 387 million documents, or 2.5 billion images to be scanned, uploaded and logged into their new system. The hope is that logging records into a digital database, that it will be easier to disseminate information about a patient in a timely manner compared to the old system where the information was stored in stacks of piles inside cubicles. The VA hopes that the ability of health care providers to access information will allow them to treat patients more effectively and efficiently and being able to avoid the horror stories of terrible treatment of patients in the past.
Beyond digitizing records, many health care providers have developed a message service that is similar to the original instant messaging (with the addition of secure messaging so private information can not be stolen). This feature allows patients to interact with their primary care team and communicate issues that they may be having. This technology just like emails prevents patients from waiting on hold for inordinate amount of time, and allows the primary care team to prioritize issues and reply to patients in a timely manner. Different healthcare providers also include the messages that inform you about future appointments for dental, primary care, and flu shots. Many health care providers have adapted this platform because they want to reach out to patients in a channel that they want.
Many medical insurance providers have also taken to creating applications for smart phones, to make it easier for people to work with them. Blue Cross has different apps for different parts of the country. These apps include areas for you to look at your coverage, claims, local doctor’s prescriptions you may have, and obviously your financials. The VA has also taken to smart phone applications to improve the interaction with the patients. Their take on apps is vastly different. They use there app as means to communicate what exactly what they can do for the patients. This app also allows you to look in certain topics and if you want more information you can provide your contact info and they will get back to you.
I believe Blue Cross and the VA show two different directions in which companies are using technology to their advantage. While both methods help, I think Blue Cross is doing it better than the VA. The VA’s app is limited in its capabilities and is almost an extension of their website. Blue Cross allow you to see many parts of your profile and manage it much more efficiently. I think the differences in the two versions show the financial commitment each company has made to improve their technology. I do not believe that the VA is ignoring the importance of technology, but instead is limited in its financial resources compared to Blue Cross. To me there app is more the brain child of upper leadership at the VA saying “we need an app for smartphones” and not truly understanding the impact that digital business can have for them. If they had individuals in place to show them what is a smart investment of their resources they may have waited to launch an app and picked something that suited the patients more. Instead of creating an app that acts more of a band aid instead of a real permanent solution.
Technology has made it easier for patients and health care professionals to interact. Patients can now send a quick message and not have to wait on the phone to talk to someone. This cuts down the actual time they spend dealing with the issue. By looking at the VA and Blue Cross you can see that both entities are trying to use technology to their advantage, but it is clear to me which company has done it right and which one hasn’t. To just simply develop an application for a smart phone isn’t cutting it at this point. Companies need to use technology and provide patients/clients with something that provides value to them. As we have seen with many other companies, those that are willing to invest in enhancing technology typically see large dividends on the back end because they have increased the customer’s experience