The coming revolution in patient access

The patient experience is about to get a major upgrade.

After a period of years when healthcare providers have been investing in their infrastructure—creating electronic medical records systems, acquiring additional physician groups and building new medical facilities—the emphasis over the next three to five years will shift to improving how patients access their doctors, according to Michael A. Beaty Jr., Value Based Care and Digital Health Leader at KPMG.

“The pendulum is swinging the other way toward investment in the things that drive a better patient experience,” he says. The technological changes consumers have seen in how they access banking, retail and travel services— often on mobile devices, using simpler interfaces—are being applied to healthcare, although it may take a solid decade before they are mainstream across the industry, Beaty predicts.

That puts the healthcare industry on the cusp of a major change seen only every three or four generations, according to Bharat Rao, KPMG’s National Leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences Data and Analytics. The coming disruptions will be so fundamental that they’re akin to when “x-rays were invented and you could see inside the body without opening it up,” he says.

Bloomberg data and insights about healthcare—prepared independently of KPMG—support their contentions. Here’s how patient access to healthcare is changing over the next five years, and the practical steps providers can take today to prepare for that future.

Patients will become more involved in their healthcare

Many patients still view the “physician as oracle. We go to the physician, they give us advice and we follow it,” says Rao. “Over the next decade you’re going to see a transformation to a shared responsibility for healthcare,” with patients “interested in healthcare when they’re healthy, not just when they’re sick,” he says.

Beaty compares the coming healthcare changes to Amazon, where consumers can compare various products, and asks: “Why can’t we find out more information about our condition or the potential drugs that are being prescribed to us with similar simplicity, and have those tools tied directly to our primary care physician’s own website?”

“Amazon is able to look at my specific buying patterns, where I am and other information it has about me, and then give me very tailored information that’s relevant to me about what I should buy next,” says Rao. The future of patient medical information will likewise be tailored to the individual.

“That transition will happen when you have a company like WebMD able to access all my medical information, and that of millions of similar patients, and use it to provide more nuanced, more specific and more personalized healthcare information. In the end, it will eventually take my genome into account,” says Rao.

That increasing patient involvement in their healthcare could also take the form of patients using technology to replace nurses and labs, according to Bloomberg News. Silicon Valley’s Athelas promises precise home blood tests from a pin prick, using a device about the size of an Amazon Echo. At a cost of $20 a month, the service is targeting cancer patients, “who need frequent blood draws to monitor white blood cell counts, which show the immune system’s strength,” Bloomberg reports. Such consumer-generated data, along with electronic medical records and more medical imagery, will lead to a massive increase in the amount of healthcare data collected. It is expected to exceed 2,000 exabytes—2 trillion gigabytes—by 2020, or more than three times existing amounts, Bloomberg Intelligence reports. 

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The coming revolution in patient access