Just like any other industry, healthcare has a past, a present, and a future. However, with low patient-to-clinician ratios and rising patient needs, the future of healthcare is hanging in the balance.
The good news is that the choices we make today can have positive, long-term outcomes for the next generation. So let’s take a look at healthcare of the past—and of the future.
In the past, healthcare did a phenomenal job treating sick people. The US alone has developed innumerable solutions for life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
However, this zeroed-in focus on helping the sick has come at a price. People at risk for developing disease aren’t getting as much medical attention. Because these patients don’t exhibit acute symptoms—yet—they aren’t always able to get the medical attention they need. In many cases, these patients have to go at it alone.
In the past, patients have faced isolation and limited tools and resources to help them prevent chronic conditions. In addition, hospitals and other health institutions haven’t traditionally encouraged patient engagement. Patients have had to improve their own wellness without access to tools, information, and support.
Not surprisingly, both clinicians and patients are frustrated with this situation. Clinicians need to focus on complex conditions, so there’s been no one to help at-risk patients. Patients, on the other hand, are equally as frustrated because it’s hard to maintain behavior change without ongoing support.
The end result is that a patient’s quality of life decreases while their medical expenses increase. Patients progress into complex or acute chronic conditions and comorbidities. They face more troublesome symptoms and more hospitalizations and ER visits.
If only we could rewind this whole scenario. It might have been possible to prevent, or at the very least delay, chronic disease in the first place.
The innovation of accountable care organizations arose from the need for stronger primary care connections and rising chronic disease among patients. The result is that healthcare organizations are gradually starting to establish stronger ties with the chronically ill.
Patients needs, however, go beyond this. Those with chronic illness need a proverbial safety net that supports lifestyle changes and their mental health. Here are a few of the most important:
Seamless virtual and physical health
Recent developments in healthcare delivery promote accountability between primary care physicians and patients. In other words, both clinicians and patients are beginning to share the responsibility of healthcare and wellness.
Digital health solutions are one way that healthcare is improving communication between the two parties. When patients monitor and record their symptoms at home, they can better inform clinicians of their progress and share their concerns.
This merging of virtual and in-person communication allows clinicians and patients to collaborate and communicate seamlessly. Patient engagement platforms like Melon create a scalable approach to whole-person care. These platforms give tools to the patients and save clinicians time.
Scientifically proven to help improve long-term lifestyle changes, peer connection is a valuable asset for both patients and clinicians. Non-clinical peer groups can help sustain patient motivation and support mental health challenges. This fills a void that clinicians cannot.
These peer groups also provide “expert” advice from those who have experienced similar, or more intense, symptoms and challenges. These volunteer workforces give patients access to personal help and seasoned advice. They can improve patient conditions and foster human connection.
Human connection + augmented intelligence
Not only does the “now” of healthcare need human connection, it also needs augmented intelligence that merges with interpersonal networks. Clinicians and health coaches will benefit from machine learning and AI to help them see the patient’s complete health picture, including social determinants.
However, clinicians and health coaches have limited time to review and draw conclusions from patient data. Augmented intelligence then becomes the physician ‘assistant’ drawing insights from the data so they’re able to make informed decisions—within a matter of minutes.
Patient populations, on the other hand, can benefit from AI when it surfaces personalized information to them based on their data. This can then help the patient when considering future goals and decisions. By merging this information with health coaches and peer support, patients have a safety net. This may stop disease progression and prevent worsening symptoms.
This results in a healthcare consumer who is empowered to live their health care plan and improve their quality of life. As tools, personal motivation, and peer support intersect, patients can learn about themselves and overcome barriers to their own wellness.
By empowering patients to engage with their own health, scalable healthcare becomes possible. This is how healthcare can change the present to improve the future.
The future of healthcare is now. Is your healthcare organization prepared?