Connecting the Docs: Where Healthcare is Headed

The future of healthcare can be summed up in a favorite children’s ditty:

 

“The shin bone’s connected to the knee-bone

The knee-bone’s connected to the thigh-bone

The thigh bone’s connected to the….”

 

Ok you get the idea. What we’re getting at is the future of healthcare is connectivity.

As British Scholar Anthony Giddens put it, modernity is characteristically marked by uncertainty. However, when it comes to modern medicine, one thing is for certain:  every component in the healthcare continuum will be connected in some form or other via technology.

What do we really mean by that, and how does that impact healthcare marketing communications?

It’s about convergence. Formerly disparate medical facilities in rural and urban geographies are being brought together in new ways through emerging technological innovations such as telemedicine that allow for collaborative care opportunities like never before.  Just like that kid’s song, both healthcare and communications are ensuring that all players within the healthcare continuum, from patient to provider to payer, are going to be connected.

The Times, they are A-Changin’

The healthcare industry has never been squeezed by so many pressures at the same time. Regulatory agencies and legislative bodies have imposed unprecedented demands on the healthcare industry in the form of newly legislated information—Electronic Health Records/Electronic Medical Records, Meaningful Use—and stricter business performance expectations as exemplified, for instance, in the movement from volume- to value-based care.

Take two macro trends that have a major impact on healthcare today: personalized medicine and the empowered consumer.  Combine these forces with the top trends in communications technology—digital connectivity, information technology, and data transparency—and you’ve got the blueprint for what  may be driving a whole paradigm shift in healthcare transformation.

Healthcare is being redefined almost daily. New solutions and treatment protocols, fueled by innovative and emerging technologies are challenging existing paradigms and revolutionizing the quality of care. Payment reforms stemming from the Affordable Care Act are shifting healthcare delivery away from an emphasis on managing sickness and towards a prioritization of maintaining wellness. The healthcare market is increasingly introducing therapies that are based on an individual’s specific genetic makeup so that courses of treatment are more specific and more customized to the particularities of patients.

The Empowered Patient

Traditionally a siloed industry accessible only to those with specialized medical training, Healthcare is quickly becoming a place where lay-people have clout. As our society embraces a tech-savvy era, consumers (also known as patients in the healthcare world) are more empowered than ever. Technological advancements like personalized EKGs in the palm of your hand, once a fantasy, are now as omnipresent as consumer iPhone apps.

The future of healthcare will rely on the ability to use technology—clinical, diagnostic, and informational—to understand disease earlier, develop the best treatment plans, improve clinical workflow, and decrease costs.

It’s an exciting time. But it’s also a turbulent one.  And in order to be successful, one really has to understand and appreciate the synchrony of it all and the dynamics of how it all fits together.  The healthcare agency of the future has to make the connection. After all, if you can’t see how the knee bone connects to the thighbone, you might be in the wrong business.

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