Ten years ago, smartphones were a luxury. Most people still used Netflix to rent DVDs in the mail. Only a few million people had Amazon Prime. Facebook had recently become available to the public. Many of us still printed off directions from websites like MapQuest. Apps were still strange and new.
A lot has changed since then. Major developments in tech have already changed the way we use the Internet and the kind of interactions we expect to have with companies. Just about every industry has been altered by this union of consumerism and tech, including healthcare.
So what does the future look like based on this trajectory? How will healthcare change in the years to come?
Here are four things health plans are bound to see in the future, which you can start preparing for right now.
1. Better data
Most industries, including healthcare, are becoming more data-driven. Health plans are in a unique position to present their members’ data in a way that helps members live healthier lives, and make better decisions to manage their care.
You have access to immense quantities of aggregate data. This includes medical information, demographic data, and user information (such as how people interact with your portal, mobile app, and other digital solutions). In the future, health plans will have more ways to explore that data, and they’ll be better at using it to determine the most efficient processes.
Right now, industries with more data than humans can possibly process are finding applications for machine learning. What might take years for a team of professionals to analyze takes seconds with computers. Health plans will likely use machine learning and artificial intelligence to dynamically identify the most relevant information and services for each member.
In other words, we’re going to get a lot better at personalizing people’s experience.
2. More consumerism
When the Affordable Care Act rolled out in 2010, American consumers felt what it’s like to take charge of their healthcare. Whatever the future of healthcare looks like, we can expect that Americans will get more of this kind of control in the years to come.
Consumerism is already forcing health plans to compete in ways they haven’t had to before. Member satisfaction is an important metric. And the health plans that deliver a first-class experience are going to continue pulling ahead of the pack.
The more choice members have, the more competitive health plans will need to be to survive and thrive.
3. Improved behavior
As health plans learn to collect and use data in new ways, they’ll get better at identifying the next best action members need to take. All that aggregate data will help us see what each member would benefit from the most, based on what we know about them. We already have the tools today to engage and interact with members in helpful ways (such as through a mobile app or text engagement services), but health plans will have more relevant information to show them.
Health plans will be better equipped to think about things like:
If I know a member just had a baby, what are the three main things I need to tell them about?
If someone has a certain kind of coverage, what do I want them to focus on?
As machine learning helps us identify the things we need to promote, we can dynamically display them in member portals or notify members directly through other channels. Ultimately, this should also lead to improved outcomes, a healthier population, and lower healthcare costs—but it depends on how well health plans capitalize on digital innovations.
4. Higher expectations
As a byproduct of consumerism bleeding over into healthcare, health plans will also see an increase in their members’ expectations. People already expect an Amazon-like experience from the companies they interact with.
Think about how frustrating it is to learn that a restaurant—or even a food truck—is cash only. We live in a day and age when credit card processing is so accessible that when a business doesn’t embrace it, they’re literally throwing money away. So it’s shocking when we run into cash-only situations.
Similarly, when people digitally interact with a company, they expect communication and transactions to happen quickly. What used to take days to process and respond to can now be handled in seconds. Health plans that continue to lag in this area are going to fall further behind—especially when this increase in expectations is coupled with an increase in choice.
Members are also going to expect to manage more of their healthcare by themselves. That’s how they already handle banking, finances, shopping, and other day-to-day activities. And the healthcare industry is already capable of giving members this kind of control. In the future, self-service healthcare will be the norm.
Get ahead of the curve
These changes are already working their way into the healthcare industry. Whether or not health plans can keep up depends on the digital tools they’re using right now, and their strategy for improving the entire healthcare experience.
Next week in our new ebook, The Provider Platform: Why Portals Will Never Be Enough, we break down how the healthcare technology available today can do so much more than most health plans realize.
Download your copy of The Provider Platform: Why Portals Will Never Be Enough.