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The healthcare system in the United States does many things very well, but there are opportunities to make it more personalized, interconnected, and easier to navigate, delivering truly patient-centered care. For some people, healthcare today feels like a system of multiple trains going in different directions: Sometimes they stop at the same station, but often they operate totally independently from one another. That can make it challenging for some people who are just trying to get from Point A to Point B.

That message was clear in several recent surveys of healthcare consumers:

  • 25% of people report not feeling listened to or not being able to meet administrative needs, such as scheduling appointments at convenient times.
  • 25% of people reported being frustrated by higher-than-expected healthcare costs.
  • 89% of people under 40 said they were dissatisfied with their healthcare provider’s use of patient engagement technology.
  • 25% of people said results and records from one provider did not reach another provider in time for their appointment.

We believe it is possible to have a healthcare system that connects the dots to remove friction and deliver patient-centered care for each person. What is patient-centered care? It meets people where they are to address not only the most pressing medical issues that send someone to a doctor, but also those physical, behavioral, and social drivers that play such a big role in each person’s overall health.

A consumer-centered health system places people at the center and helps them care for their health in a way that best works for them. Customer centricity connects a broad range of information to produce a comprehensive picture of health, allowing individuals to see the full picture rather than navigating through a disjointed system.

A Consumer-Centered Health System Focused on Whole Health

I grew up in Zimbabwe, where there are stark differences in health outcomes for people who have access to medical care compared to those who don’t. While the healthcare system in the U.S. may be more advanced than that of my home country, Americans clearly do not all have equitable access to resources such as reliable transportation, nutritious food, and safe, affordable housing. Those factors do affect health outcomes.

Health insurance specifically was created by employers looking for ways to attract talent in a competitive post-World War II employment environment. It was not invented with the same buyer-focused approach the best consumer brands have mastered today. If we are going to reimagine the way we approach health, let’s start by doing what leading brands do best: place humanity at the center and leverage the latest healthcare technology and AI to follow the data on what really works.

Here are some ways we can start:  

  • Work to advance health equity.  We have made big strides in breaking down barriers to care for some people and for some conditions, thanks in large part to telehealth. For example, the Hispanic/Latino community was the most engaged in telehealth for mental health visits in 2020 — more than any other ethnic or racial group, according to an analysis of Medicaid members in 14 states. That’s promising because studies show that major depression and anxiety are more likely to be underdiagnosed for Black and Hispanic/Latino communities — and overall behavioral health visits dropped nearly 8% for all races during the pandemic. Outcomes would have been much worse without telehealth, and it presents opportunities we can build upon.
  • Use data to improve care. Insights pulled from the data revolution can help health companies better focus our efforts on individuals and take a 360-degree view of their health needs. From clinical records to social factors, the Health OS platform reaches across millions of individual records to track patterns and detect trends that require redeployment of resources, changes in diagnostic practices, or targeted community interventions, all while preserving privacy and security of data. We can then help healthcare providers apply these insights to improve care overall.   
  • Redefine health. We need to help humans live their best lives, and this means seeing them as whole people—not the sum of their medical appointments. Health leaders have an opportunity to see health from a broader view, one that is impacted by physical, behavioral, and social drivers. For every single person, we need to think about the appropriate mix of components needed to drive whole-person health. 

A major lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we can move quickly and thoughtfully when we want to: Payers changed payment models, federal and state governments issued sweeping regulatory waivers and rule changes, and consumers made massive changes in their behavior. Collectively, we made huge strides forward to build more equitable systems during the pandemic, and we must continue that momentum.  That means being deliberate in our efforts to advance health equity, making healthcare simpler and more seamless, and connecting with people where they are.

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