Erica Jain is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Healthie.
Healthcare is seeing unprecedented innovation being spurred by post-Covid-19 momentum. This is long overdue, as we’ve witnessed the consequences of a broken system for years: untenable costs, poor patient outcomes, and a focus on reactive rather than preventative care in traditional healthcare systems. Patients are increasingly becoming active participants in their own healthcare decisions and experiences. In turn, this is driving forward a new industry of upstarts creating modern, comprehensive healthcare solutions defined by tech-first, longitudinal relationships with patients.
Our current healthcare system was built around data silos that prevent collaboration, with trillions of dollars poured into disease treatment instead of prevention each year. Luckily, the rise of health tech has spurred a new generation of leaders looking to tackle the legacy industry and bring better relationships and, ultimately, better patient outcomes to the forefront.
Telehealth 2.0: Collaborative, Asynchronous Care Driving Better Patient Outcomes
Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of Telehealth 1.0—the replacement of in-person sessions with video call visits for consultations not requiring a physical procedure. Millions downloaded Zoom practically overnight to meet with their healthcare providers, and care delivery continued. Coming out of Covid, we’ve learned that a virtual visit is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how healthcare can be delivered virtually.
Telehealth 2.0 enables care models that never would have been possible in person and has the potential to truly change healthcare experiences and outcomes because it takes the good parts of a provider visit and blends them with capabilities that would be impossible without technology. It’s fair to say that every virtual-first healthcare organization is creating its own version of 2.0, but here are three common themes.
1. Coupling Live With Async Care
Technology can never fully replace the relationship that a provider builds with a patient; rather, it can be used to meaningfully augment the care experience. Asynchronous care enables providers to connect with patients via tools like chat and webinars and facilitates the sharing of data that can be used to drive better-informed healthcare decisions. Every health tech company implements its own vision of asynchronous care, but the vision of building a care experience that surpasses live one-on-one visits is central to many of the success stories that we’re seeing.
2. Building Collaborative Care Teams
Healthcare has been traditionally delivered in data silos, with minimal collaboration across practitioners. For example, in women’s health, patients meet with their OB/GYN, who refers externally to a lactation consultant, who refers externally to a therapist—and the chain continues.
Fortunately, women’s health innovators are changing this experience by building multi-disciplinary experiences that drive cross-practitioner collaboration and coordination of care. In these new models, a whole-patient approach to care is promoted. Care team providers are able to routinely access assessments and treatment plans from all care team members, better informing their own care recommendations. Over time, patient progress and care outcomes can be tracked across the care team, leading to a subsequent focus on the long-term health outcomes of the patient.
3. Creating Personalized Onboarding Experiences
Building a best-in-class patient experience should be at the forefront of every healthcare system, and today, health tech companies are leading the crusade. They know that a more personalized onboarding experience lends itself to a more positive patient experience. Health tech companies are leveraging modern tech solutions to create dynamic intake forms, patient assessments and questionnaires. Collectively, this allows them to better understand the patient’s healthcare needs and goals, subsequently better matching them with care programs, providers and treatment plans. For example, asking about the reason for a visit, requests for a specific provider type and insurance information can guide the matchmaking process between patient and provider and serve as the foundation for a patient to receive specific care plans and recommendations.
Toward The Future: Enabling Consumer-First Healthcare Experiences With Better Infrastructure
The first frontier of consumer-first healthcare is happening largely outside of a hospital’s four walls. The upstarts who are building anew are innovating without the restrictions of the behemoths; over time, I believe they’ll find ways to partner with the incumbent systems.
These companies typically start by offering out-of-pocket services (which consumers are willing to pay for) and building B2B partnerships with insurance companies to unlock scale. These innovators are building truly patient-first experiences, shifting the power dynamics. I believe we will continue to see this trend grow, enabling healthcare challengers—entrepreneurs, clinicians, research groups and the like, all aligned with missions of providing better, more comprehensive and more relationship-based care—to gain a major foothold in the space.
There is a new generation of healthcare technology infrastructure companies building to support the virtual-first healthcare innovators. Consumer readiness for these services is pushing the market forward coming out of Covid-19.
Healthcare is following in the footsteps of fintech and consumer tech, where the emergence of infrastructure companies is enabling innovators to focus on what they do best. Just 15 years ago, as shoppers began wanting to buy products online, shop owners opened up to sell online, and Shopify made it turnkey for shop owners to do this. In the case of healthcare, health tech innovators are realizing that they do not need to build out core, undifferentiated technology and instead can and should focus their development resources on the parts of their experience that are unique.
Digital health innovation is still in its first inning relative to where it will be in the next five to 10 years, which is evident in the momentum of companies currently rethinking healthcare experiences for the better. These companies are focusing on proactive care, something our society needs for better healthcare outcomes. It’s also inspiring to see that next-generation infrastructure companies are taking an open API approach and building bridges, not walls, when it comes to making patient data accessible. I believe this movement will drive forth much overdue innovation in healthcare.