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Health care as an industry has been moving toward improving consumer engagement and patient or member experience for quite a few years now. The ongoing pandemic and the criticality of virtual and new care modalities has, of course, illustrated the importance of focusing on consumers more than ever.

Eighty percent of consumers, in fact, indicated in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Health Care Outlook that they intend to participate in more virtual visits post-pandemic. The same report found that 75 percent of consumers want to determine and work toward health goals with their providers, and 60 percent of physicians indicated that they are transitioning more to prevention and wellbeing than sick care.

“Moving away from a historically paternalistic industry to a very consumer-centric industry is a big leap. But we need to make that leap because before the pandemic everybody assumed that virtual health wouldn’t work since there was relatively little adoption. Well, we blew through that assumption pretty quickly in about April of last year,” said Urvi Shah, Senior Manager of Life Sciences and Health Care at Deloitte.

Shah spoke during the Health Evolution virtual Executive Briefing, Health care engagement: What to expect of next-generation consumerism experience. In addition to Shah, the webcast included Mike Butler, former President of Providence and Michael Serbinis, CEO, League.

To meet changing consumer demand, organizations will need to invest in technologies, and new patient-centered models, including, but not limited to, digital front doors, a concept that existed before COVID-19 but has since become part of the health care lexicon. During the webcast, the experts discussed the following elements of developing a digital front door strategy:

    • Recruiting talent outside the health care industry
    • Looking to the top 50 health care organizations for lessons learned
    • Breaking the incumbent attitude that health care can solve everything
    • Envisioning the digital front doors of the future

Recruiting talent from outside the health care industry
When Butler wanted to accelerate digital initiatives at Providence, one of the first moves he made was hiring Aaron Martin, a serial entrepreneur who at the time worked at Amazon and left to become the health system’s Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer.

To date, Providence has invested in 26 startups and spun out four: DexCare, which offers an access optimization platform, Xealth, for prescribing and monitoring health apps and content, the Circle Women’s Health Platform that was acquired by Wildflower Health and the patient engagement startup Twistle, which Health Catalyst acquired.

“There’s a real advantage from the business perspective as this is really an opportunity to move forward in solving all different kinds of things, creating more customers for life and, ultimately, growing market share,” Butler, who retired from Providence in late 2020.

“Organizations need the talent and know-how for many different aspects, such as strategy, program management, specialty expertise around marketing, as well as the technology for targeting and engagement,” Serbinis said. “All of those need to be on the table for organizations going through one of these transformations.”

The challenge when pursuing that talent is that many other organizations are also doing so and that has created a scarcity of people with the right skills for building digital front doors. “Google’s looking for those people. Amazon’s looking for them. Those organizations are willing to pay a high price,” Serbinis said. “We’re all looking for that talent. Every provider and payer across the country is looking and there’s not enough.”

And there are of course learnings to understand from within health care as well.

Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan brings more than two decades in editing and journalism experience to Health Evolution. Sullivan most recently served as Editor-in-Chief at HIMSS, leading Healthcare IT News, Health Finance, MobiHealthNews. Prior to HIMSS Media, Sullivan was News Editor of IDG’s InfoWorld, directing a dozen reporters’ coverage for the weekly print publication and daily website.