Consumers Are Being Asked to Make a Dent in the Healthcare Universe: Here’s Why We All Need to Help

October 18, 2013
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healthcare dataAll of us are well aware that healthcare is rapidly changing.  We’re entering an era where consumers will truly be at the center of how health is delivered in the United States and other parts of the world. 

healthcare dataAll of us are well aware that healthcare is rapidly changing.  We’re entering an era where consumers will truly be at the center of how health is delivered in the United States and other parts of the world. 

I’m not the only person who thinks this.  Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s CEO, believes a renewed focus on the patient and changes in health technology and financing may put some insurance companies out of business.  For payers to thrive in this environment they will need to embrace their new role as facilitators that are less concerned about who gets paid, and more interested in helping people successfully navigate their health and wellness decisions. 

While consumers will benefit from the profound changes to come in health, there are also risks.  Patients, caregivers and others will be asked to act on information provided via technologies such as genomics, Big Data and social media to make a dent the healthcare universe, i.e., by making better, faster and more effective decisions about their care.  Unfortunately, many people are not ready to do this. 

We all must embrace our responsibility to help consumers understand, navigate and thrive in an environment where they will be asked to assume more of the financial burden for their care and use sophisticated technologies to optimize its delivery.  One of our most important tasks will be to help reduce problems associated with three trends I and my co-author Rohit Bhargava discuss in our upcoming book:

  • Unhealthy Surveillance:  As we collect more health data, it is raising many new privacy and security concerns.  We need to help consumers understand what information is being collected, how it should be used responsibly and protected from prying eyes.
  • Multicultural Misalignment:  Lack of cultural and socioeconomic understanding threatens to blunt the effectiveness of digital health technologies.  We need to support and rely on those who have vast experience working and communicating with people from diverse backgrounds and age groups.  These people are in an ideal position to help developers, entrepreneurs and others ensure tools and technologies work for people from all backgrounds. 
  • The Over-Quantified Self:  As the volume of health data from wearables, sensors and more increases, consumers will struggle to act on this info.  We need to do a lot more to ensure health data is communicated clearly and that people are actually able to act on the information they receive. 

Technologists, data scientists, engineers and others wil do a lot to determine the shape of the healthcare future. But, there’s no reason all of us can’t help consumers thrive, no matter our role. 

(Healthcare consumers / shutterstock)

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