Why Isn’t Healthcare Concerned With Convenience?

I’m thrilled to launch a new collaboration with two outstanding colleagues Amber Thompson and John McCabe.  Healthcare as an industry is in the midst of a massive upheaval.  Amber and John have graciously agreed to bring their unique perspective on the convergence of healthcare and the customer experience here in their corner called “Two Minute Musings”.  I’m looking forward to these posts generating some great discussion from great minds on the subject.  So, to kick things off, here is Amber and John’s inaugural contribution.

When we think about how goods and services are developed, used, and sold in today’s world, it seems the healthcare industry is lagging behind in terms of delivering a happy customer experience. Think about it: we have open-source ecommerce available in every sector except healthcare- but healthcare constitutes almost 18% of our GDP annually.

Let’s look at the standard office visit today- we make the appointment based on the physician’s’ schedule, wait an average of 45 minutes in the waiting room for 15 minutes of fame, pay & check out, go to the pharmacy and wait for medications (and pay again). Remember this experience is compounded by the fact that you already feel awful and probably had to miss work for this appointment. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way because the healthcare system has the ability to treat us like consumers. Retailers understand the fundamental producer-consumer relationship: if consumers want to buy a product or service, producers will make sure we can do so with as little barriers as possible.

Now think about the average customer experience- when we want to “windowshop” on amazon, zappo’s, ebay, we can do so from anywhere at any time. Retailers don’t force us out of our way, but rather make sure we are able to spend money everywhere, all the time. Thanks to technology and forward-thinking retailers, we can attain instant gratification during lunch, on a train, or even during a chemotherapy session.

Granted- retail exchanges and complex healthcare interactions are not the same thing. However, we can look at portions of each experience in an “apples to apples” manner. Understanding how healthcare insurance and co-pays currently work is key to breaking the dependency on face to face physician-patient engagement.  Today doctors are compensated based on the patient’s type of insurance, census volumes, and based on the overall health of the aggregated patient population in a specific region. Theoretically, patients are better controlled if they have more regular access to their providers, both in person and virtually.

Now picture this scenario: *Sickpatient wakes up with a fever and feels awful. He logs onto his doctor’s virtual treatment room and signs into the secure portal. After reporting the need for treatment, he can self-select symptoms from a variety of options that run against an algorithm while waiting for the physician or nurse to engage in live chat. He can be on the couch, get diagnosed, obtain a prescription and pay for it all via one of the many e-pay systems available. Granted, *Sickpatient is sick either way, but in this scenario the healthcare system treated him like a consumer and has impacted his life in a much less intrusive manner. If the demand is there, healthcare providers will have to get on board. This is how consumer-driven markets evolve.


  1. Barry Peters says:

    This scenario is not only plausible but once payors latch onto it as a means to contain costs AND inprove #CEX, we’ve got a “bingo.”

  2. Vance Clipson says:

    Good post, Barry. There is a lot that healthcare providers can learn from other industries when it comes to customer service. Take airline communications, for example – they keep passengers up-to-date and informed through texting, automated voice, email, and mobile apps, depending on the consumer’s channel preference. Most crucially, when there’s a flight cancellation or delay, hundreds of passengers are notified immediately and given the means to rebook their flight or change their travel plans without creating swells of inbound calls or lines at the gate counters. Why should healthcare be different? It shouldn’t be – patients are airline passengers, banking customers and retail consumers too. And, their customer service expectations are just as high. Check out more on our thoughts here: http://blog.varolii.com/healthcare/lofty-ambition-what-healthcare-can-learn-from-the-airlines/

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