Bringing the World of “Tap, Tap, Tap” to Healthcare
There’s the Modern Consumer Experience, and Then There’s Healthcare
Recall your last experience flying with your favorite airline. I bet booking your ticket and then checking-in for your flight went something like “tap, tap, tap” and, then, shortly after, you were flying. Or think about the last time you ordered delivery from an online platform like UberEats or GrubHub. “Tap, tap, tap…now I have a delicious dinner in front of me” is probably an accurate way to summarize that experience. We could go on. The mobile-led “tap, tap, tap…[purchase]/[experience]” model has become the new normal for Americans across virtually every direct-to-consumer industry. A notable exception, however, is healthcare.
If you don’t agree with me, think about your most recent experience visiting a doctor for the first time. Maybe you had an injury that requires surgery and your primary care physician sent you to a surgical specialist. “Tap, tap, tap…now I’m sitting in front of the doctor” is likely a far cry from describing your interactions with the clinic before you saw your doctor. There may have been a few taps involved, but I imagine your experience also involved phone calls, clunky online web forms, determining if the MD is even in network, pages of paper questionnaires, and, even after the visit, multiple, confusing bills received in the mail. Consumer technology has revolutionized how you buy food, travel, and shop, but that revolution, clearly, has not taken hold in healthcare.
Change is Percolating Traditionally, healthcare’s overwhelming complexity has caused the patient’s consumer experience to lag behind. However, signs that changes are coming are percolating. Americans spent $365 billion on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses last year. This number continues to rise every year, gobbling up an ever larger share of household spending and creating pent-up demand for a more modern consumer experience in healthcare. Forces across the US economy are responding. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple are making serious forays into healthcare, venture funding is pouring towards digital health start-ups (this type of funding has tripled over the last 5 years), established players are pursuing aggressive M&A strategies to stay dominant, the US government is mandating more price transparency across the industry, and a new category of health technology companies, like ZocDoc and Teladoc, are having success with consumer-focused platforms that use modern technology to connect patients to providers. In the midst of all of these encouraging developments, there was one in particular that caught my eye and led to an idea.
Apple Health Records and Health Here
The news came from the tech giant Apple. First, in January of last year, they announced the release of a feature called Health Records within their Health app. This feature conveniently aggregates existing patient health data from a user’s electronic medical record, allowing patients to easily pull their medical history from participating hospitals with just a few taps. Next, in June, Apple opened up Health Records to 3rd party developers.
This opening sparked an idea. Health Records is focused on providing a consumer-friendly way for a patient to pull their health data across different hospital systems into a unified view. This is certainly nice, but how could the patient use this feature to get what they’re really after: better care? That’s when I saw the natural fit between what my company, Health Here, has been building and the Health Records functionality. We provide ambulatory specialists (who are largely left out of the Health Records sharing ecosystem) a consumer-friendly way for patients to check-in and pay for their visits. Our thinking is that a more intuitive interface for collecting data will coax patients into providing better, more complete information to their doctors in advance of their visits. With better patient-generated data, comes better care.
We were about to build a mobile app and were thinking about how to keep patient-generated data quality high despite a screen that is smaller than our in-office kiosks. That’s when the idea hit me: why not connect our app to Health Records? Patients have already provided detailed medical information to their health systems, so why not just port this data directly over to their specialists with just a few taps?
We met with Apple to discuss our idea. They found it compelling, so my team got to work. It took some time as we had to build a complete intake interface for those patients who were not using Health Records (as well as mobile payments and benefits review functionality to cover our clients’ use cases). However, after several months of work, I’m excited to share that we have officially released Health Here’s mobile experience, Clinic Q, into the App Store. Patients of participating providers are now just a few taps away from completing registration with a new doctor.
The Road Ahead
There is certainly much work left to do. Although over 160 hospital systems have signed up for Apple Health Records, many major systems are not participating. Also, most patients at participating health systems are not using this feature, although I imagine this will change as more 3rd party solutions like Health Here’s Clinic Q build meaningful ways to use this data. Furthermore, how do you create a similar experience in the Android ecosystem? And what about desktop?
We at Health Here believe that both patients and providers are underserved by the current technology on the market. There is no end-to-end solution for ambulatory medical practices to provide their patients a consumer experience that rivals what they find in other industries. Health Here aims to be the solution that bridges that gap. With the release of our mobile app, Clinic Q, we’ve hit a significant milestone on the way to bringing the world of “tap, tap, tap” to healthcare.