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Tech adoption in healthcare: time to speed up transformation?

The pandemic has forced the healthcare industry to embrace digital transformation faster than ever before. But is the pace fast enough?

Lachlan Mcpherson is the founder and director of Healthsite, a digital growth platform dedicated to providing quality & innovative digital technology products to the Healthcare Industry. He recently appeared on the AZK Media Target Market podcast to discuss the slow rate of technology adoption in the health industry and the acceleration of patient engagement in the digital age.

As someone who has been in the healthcare industry for over a decade now, what have been the major trends you've seen emerge when it comes to patient engagement and experience?

Ten years ago, when we had the concept for fully integrated online bookings, the very first hurdle we had to overcome was that medical clinics didn't have their own websites. The patient engagement in the digital sphere was either non-existent, or it was awful - the experience was terrible. We had to first overcome that challenge and explain why they needed a web presence - and that was around the 2008, 2009 mark.

That's really evolved with the emergence of aggregator websites, but healthcare clinics now taking more of a proactive approach to their digital presence. There's been a real trend to saying, look, this internet thing seems to be here to stay, patients are finding me on the internet, we better have some control in this space.

The other thing that really comes to mind with patient engagement is the automation of a lot of the digital trends that we're seeing, such as post-consultation, and communications like SMS triggers 15 minutes after your consultation. This is something we're really into - it is the "how did we go?" question that's all automated. From a customer experience point of view, we're really trying to enhance our customer experience by way of automating that kind of digital engagement that really comes through on SMS and email.

We’ve seen so many industries now becoming digital-first, but in healthcare they’re still faxing documents! Why is adoption so slow?

Don't get me started! I know the clinic managers can't stand it either. I have a running joke that if doctors didn't weren't around, fax machines wouldn't be around. We're really keeping the fax alive for the healthcare industry.

There's perceived security with fax, it's a very simple transmission from point A to point B. Despite the fact that we have multiple vendors here in Australia providing secure messaging, some are still opting for fax - and you know why that is? Doctors are brilliant human beings and they keep the country healthy, but I think the scientific nature of most doctors is they're not fearful of change, but sceptical.

What's the downside here of moving away from fax? Where can I get caught? Where can my indemnity insurer raise my premiums because I'm moving away from this beloved fax machine? There's a lot of sensitive information that is going from point A to point B and they want to make sure that that's getting there securely. But in the long-term fax is just not the way to do it. The day of 100% uptake of digital streaming and sending of information that'll be a magical day, but I'm not holding my breath.

In what ways has the pandemic forced the healthcare industry to pick up the pace of tech adoption?

The pandemic has been really awful in so many respects. But, it has really forced the healthcare industry to rethink the digital space. I think it was the Health Minister who said there was 10 years of progress made in three months when this first came out. That's an admission the industry was 10 years behind.

What the pandemic really did was it brought people to the forefront to go look there are other means to interact with your health care provider. Telehealth is obviously the biggest one and I think he was referring to that in that statement, in that there is a vast majority of consultations that actually just don't require me to leave my home. This has brought that really clear to the whole population, that we just don't need to be face to face. I have three kids, I own my company, we're busy. If I need to see the doctor and I don't need to actually go there physically, I'm taking that option.

We've really seen that adoption. For telehealth that's been a massive one and the other one to really speak of is that e-scripts have been fast-tracked. You finish your consultation and with consent, an SMS is sent to your phone with your e-script details, all in that encrypted message.

The third one is with everyone kind of being remote, we've had to then actually enhance the digital experience for patients. We're now seeing more streamlined websites, or a mobile optimised website, where we make it easier or more searchable and search-friendly. It's actually brought this stuff to the forefront of people's minds that we actually need to do it. What's being shown is patients are really using it and are enjoying the experience of it.

With so many competitors in the market for digital healthcare, what have you seen them get undeniably wrong when it comes to attracting and retaining health customers? In other words, what epic healthcare marketing fails have you seen?

Having been in the industry for as long as I have, you see a lot of interesting things happen that really raise the eyebrow, For me, the epic fail would really come under banners of accidentally or otherwise promoting to patients products or services that may or may not have been consented to. Those things come out pretty quickly - people are very sensitive about that kind of thing. Those kinds of non consented communications are some of the bigger ones that come to mind.

The other thing that I would really speak to is companies trying to be all things to all people. In the digital space, there is room for companies to really stay in your lane. You do what you do well, and stick to your core business. You also understand the value that you're bringing from your core business and not being reactive to requests for doing something completely left field.

That's where a lot of companies have really tried to be all things to all people and they've shifted away from their core business, which's made them successful. What ends up from that, from what I can see is bad experiences, bad experiences for their customers, bad experiences for other people in the industry as well.

What trends do you think will emerge in the digital healthcare space?

We've seen telehealth reach some point of interest. Personally, I believe the government will continue funding telehealth via item numbers, I think the government will continue funding the E scripts, which requires an SMS. Because of those two things, the trajectory of both telehealth being used as a video kind of platform and the e-scripts and third party services that will inevitably show their face once this is really embraced by the market.

I think a close third is going to be people really taking control of the digital presence. People are finally understanding that a website is actually an asset and you can actually leverage that asset to build your business and commercialise. Embracing your digital presence by way of your website, embracing social media and not be so fearful of it, I'd say that'd be the top three for this year.

What should digital software providers stop doing? And what should they start doing?

It'll probably come back to where some providers have gone wrong in understanding their value proposition, understand why their customer base loved them and stick to that. Stop trying to be all things to all people and take a good look inside the DNA of your business and say, what's that key piece that customers love about us? Nail that and keep sticking to that.

Target Market is a podcast series by AZK Media where the world’s most premium thought leaders across technology, marketing and data come together to share their insights.

This article was published on Little Black Book Online


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