Effective Healthcare Requires a Social Approach

June 15, 2015
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We all know that the healthcare ecosystem is a highly fragmented space, encompassing all manner of different stakeholders, commercial and non-commercial, including healthcare providers (doctors, nurses etc.), regulators, payers, technology players, pharmaceutical companies, device/diagnostic companies and, of course, the patient and their family, friends and carers.

We all know that the healthcare ecosystem is a highly fragmented space, encompassing all manner of different stakeholders, commercial and non-commercial, including healthcare providers (doctors, nurses etc.), regulators, payers, technology players, pharmaceutical companies, device/diagnostic companies and, of course, the patient and their family, friends and carers.

However, it strikes me that we still tend to view healthcare solutions in a rather two-dimensional way. For example, we talk about the doctor-patient relationship, the role of carers in supporting patients, how the pharmaceutical industry should engage with payers or, as is most on-trend at the moment, how the latest, greatest technology is going to revolutionise patients’ management of their own health and wellness.

It reminds me somewhat of my earlier days in sales and marketing consultancy, where pharmaceutical clients would try to look at individual components of their commercial outreach in isolation, with questions such as ‘how effective are my sales reps?’, ‘should I bother doing meetings for doctors?’ and, more recently, ‘does edetailing increase my market share?’.

The problem with that is that it is completely artificial analysis to look at it in this isolated way, because everything is connected. So an edetail may work really well, but only where doctors have previously seen a rep and attended a meeting.

Don’t worry – I’m not heading off into a thesis on multichannel marketing (God knows there is enough written on that subject), but it is alarming how we are making this same mistake within the broader healthcare space and it is most acute with new technology solutions coming through.

It is true that some of this new technology is amazing, such as the wearable devices that can monitor our health on a real-time basis, delivering big data that can allow much more effective treatment or even intervention before we even get ill. But these advances on their own are not going to deliver real change for patients (or those at risk of becoming patients) unless we can do something with all that information.

And that requires real collaboration between everyone in contact with the patient.

Think of it a bit like a super-modern yacht racing in the America’s Cup. It is packed full of the latest technology to predict and take advantage of the wind in order to go as fast as possible, but without each member of the highly skilled, and specialised, crew it cannot achieve anything. The analogy to healthcare is that everyone in contact with the patient is like a member of that crew, steering them as expediently as possible towards better health.

The challenge for healthcare is therefore to drive the right sociological change alongside the technological advancement. We need doctors, carers, family/friends and so on to all work collaboratively with each other, harnessing the power of technology and big data, to deliver a 360 degree solution built around the patient.

It’s exactly the kind of multi-stakeholder interaction we see on social media every day, so why not implement the same approach in the real world to help patients?

Innovative technology can revolutionise outcomes for patients – but it’s time for true social healthcare to realise that potential – and that requires a fundamental mind-shift with new behaviours.