Modernization of Health Care

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.

Image result for Blue Cross phone app

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


  1. clairemmarvin · ·

    I’m glad to hear that the health care system is adopting more modern digital improvements! I can’t tell you how many times I have been put on hold for 30+ minutes just to talk to someone about an upcoming appointment. I agree that digitized features must be implemented strategically however, and it does not seem like the VA is optimizing its new digital platform. Hopefully this trend will continue in the future however!

  2. andrewmanginelli · ·

    One of the interesting recent happenings is insurers partnering with smart workout watches and offering members discounts for reaching a certain numbers of steps each day. Not only does this give members a motivation to work out and save money, it also helps insurers by diversifying their risk pool.

  3. juliasmacdonald · ·

    Hi, Matt! Nice post. I think it’s good to acknowledge how technology and social media is not only improving communication between healthcare providers and patients but also expanding the resources available to each. Like you said, sites like WedMD have created many “cyberchondriacs” (Huffpost), but they have also provided easily accessible information to people who otherwise might have limited resources. And on the other side, I know social media has benefited organizations like the Mayo Clinic, which has recruited clinical trial patients through such means.

  4. ojeagle121 · ·

    I’ve always thought that WebMD has done more bad than good. A doctor friend of mine absolutely hates it and hates dealing with patients that diagnose themselves. Increased efficiency will reduce congestion (pun intended) but get patients the care they really need faster.

  5. Nice post. Actually before I started studying social media, I studied healthcare IT. The field has come quite a long way, but there is still so much further to go. I feature the future of IT will be here before the healthcare industry catches up to the present.

  6. maririera19 · ·

    I really like the distinction you made between a company half-assing digital and company investing in digital to make it have an actual impact in their business. Companies need to understand that launching digital services are not just an after thought but something that has to be rigorously thought out, tested, planned, and designed for it to have the value intended.

  7. emmaelennon · ·

    Agree with @geraldckane and @maririera19. Visiting companies like athenahealth drove home to me the importance of optimizing user experience in this field — for both patients and medical professionals. This is key in adoption and usage, and to your point, value.

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