CHICAGO — Disney is using the budding wearables market to mine troves of data from guests and quickly address any pain points during their visit to the park. What’s to stop health care from doing the same at hospitals and clinics?
That was the topic of conversation Tuesday during a session at the Consumer Experience and Digital Health Forum, sponsored by payer association America’s Health Insurance Plans. Customer’s expectations are quickly shifting in today’s market, thanks to on-demand technology such as Uber, which has revolutionized how you hail a cab. People pretty much want care delivered just as fast and cheaply as a pizza, which is why they’re turning to places like Walgreens.
Over at Disney, they’ve looked to play into those consumer desires with the recent $1 billion investment in its new “MagicBands,” Richard Ratliff, managing director of digital health for Accenture, said during the session. Fitted with an RFID chip and radio and linked to sensors throughout the park, the bracelets help to eliminate the hassles of a visitor’s day, like waiting in line for a ride. Plus, they maximize employee time by eliminating menial tasks such as tearing tickets, allowing them to instead focus on the customers. Possibilities are endless; Disney could one day use the park’s cameras to capture candid family moments, or send a coupon for free ice cream if you’ve been waiting in line too long, “Wired” notes.
Health care has no shortage of its own pain points, and leaders should be considering similar ways to improve each visit, Ratliff said.
“How do we really transform and create an immersive customer experience? I think that’s where we are in health care,” he said. “We have really got to think about how we put the person back in the center of health care, and design the services that are going to meet their expectations, particularly the on-demand consumers of today.”
Ratliff made note of five eHealth trends, gathered from a recent survey of executives, that are already influencing the health care industry today, and could pay off big in the future:
1. The Internet of Me: Digitizing the customer experience through wearable devices and other personal technology. Some 49 percent of patients worldwide wear or are willing to wear tech that measures and tracks their fitness and vital signs. Future possibilities could include requesting meds from your smartwatch or getting a text that your blood pressure is too high.
2. Outcome Economy: Using embedded hardware to produce healthier results for patients. This could eventually mean consumers bypassing the check-in process by receiving a wearable band before their appointment, or using an app to receive turn-by-turn directions through a hospital.
3. The Platform Revolution: Utilizing health IT platforms to capture data from various sources, whether smartphones or glucometers, and tying them together to give patients a real-time view of their health. In the future, a device connected to your smartphone could do a finger-prick test for immediate results, or software platforms might help identify asthma triggers.
4. Intelligent Enterprise: Harnessing treatment algorithms and automation to allow smart devices to think and respond accordingly. One day, perhaps, we might take a picture of a rash and allow an app to triage the issue, or get diagnosed by a robot that detects whether you are running a fever.
5. Workforce Reimagined: Collaborating with machines to provide more efficient, higher quality care. Some 45 percent of health executives, Accenture found, “strongly agree” that they’ll need to focus as much on training machines as training people within the next three years. Down the line, patients might ingest devices that collect newfound levels of data to better inform the care plan, or surgeons could wear technology that feeds them real-time data from monitoring equipment.
Of course, this will all be a balancing act, as health care figures out how far it can reach into patients’ personal lives without alienating them. Skipping lines at Magic Kingdom sounds great, but randomly snapping pictures of my family using sensors connected to my bracelet is kind of creepy.
“It’s scary, right?” Ratliff said. “There are ethical issues, and actually as you start to think about living services, one of the things we’re starting to look at is to the point: How far do you go? Just because you can do it with technology doesn’t mean that it’s right. So there is a limit.”