Healthcare and where we go from here

Posted by Austin Wei from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — North America on March 28, 2017


We are at a crossroads, and we need to decide, where do we go from here?


Currently, healthcare is the largest personal finance issue afflicting our country. More often than not, an expensive doctor bill can be as devastating to a household as a bad diagnosis. Perhaps this explains why the No. 1 reason for the lack of patient adherence is cost. But think about it, healthcare is something we spend a lot on, if not the most on, in our lives, and we rarely have the proper knowledge to inform these life-altering and wallet-depleting decisions. So we often find ourselves in the position of being a first-time buyer with nothing more than a recommendation from a neighbor’s aunt to equip us.


The need and the desire for something more is there. How else can you explain the fact that healthcare is currently the largest type of search on Google? Without the proper guidance and oversight from the government, people are at a loss as to how to guide their decision-making. We are reaching a breaking point where deductibles are high enough that people are beginning to realize they need a better shopping experience when it comes to healthcare.

But why has it taken so long for the healthcare shopping experience to change?


Although the lack of government oversight in healthcare has not helped, we have found that the rules with which patients are gaining coverage keep changing. This has become even more evident with the recent shift in power in DC.


But more than that, our current solutions for patient guidance need to evolve and become more user-friendly. We have seen this trend play out, where the early adopters have never been the ones to solve the market problem. Look at Facebook and Google. Neither was first on the scene in their respective categories, but they were the first to crack the code.


Timing is everything and healthcare options are not always top of mind at the decision point when these essential choices are being made. And if people are not equipped with the right tools at the right time, how can they be expected to make the right decision?


Lastly, patients are not sharing information. People are unwilling to pass along their experiences due to a fear of how they will be perceived as someone who is “sick.” It is this sense of privacy that is stunting the potential growth of understanding where past patients have been, and informing where future patients are going. How many people are willing to write a review on Rotten Tomatoes or give five stars on Amazon for the latest toothbrush they ordered, but are unwilling to share a positive experience they had with a psychiatrist?


The fact of the matter is that the healthcare system is broken. It is a disconnected and fragmented experience that requires innovation and needs to start putting patients first. People need a reliable and trustworthy way to navigate their healthcare journey. One that is not just based on recommendations rooted in one-off personal experiences.

So now that we know where we’ve been, and how we got there, the key question becomes, “Where do we go from here?”


In the absence of proper government guidance, third-party services such as Amino, Stride Health, and GoodRX, are racing to fill these gaps by combining learnings from past failures in the market with big data to help build consumer confidence and drive down cost. But what can WE do?

We need to understand patients and their journey. We must study the trends in their journey and identify key milestones where we can meet patients where they are and help inform their decision. We can accomplish this by leveraging the physician as an advocate and helping to facilitate a richer doctor-patient conversation. We can partner with employers to help be present when healthcare coverage decisions are being made and insert ourselves into the overall process. Stride Health is already doing this by partnering with Uber and Etsy to offer health plans to its independent contractors, who otherwise would not have coverage.

We need to listen to our patients. Quality and context matter more than anything when it comes to healthcare. So understanding where your users are coming from and gaining more context is key. In healthcare, patients want products that listen and put them first, whether these products are third-party tools or medicines. The only way to properly address patient needs is with a 360-degree understanding of the situation they are in.

We need to build a better system for our patients. Our healthcare system is currently a highly fragmented system without any true infrastructure. We are in a world with a lot of parking lots but no underlying interstate to connect them. It is troubling when you have a more personalized experience at Disney World than you do at your local hospital. That is because information cannot seamlessly transfer between systems. We heard former Vice President Joe Biden speak about it in his keynote speech, that we need to break down these firewalls and allow for complete movement of information. The only way things will truly open up is to have this connectivity of information.

We need to connect patients with each other. Inevitably our infrastructure will fail, and it is in those moments when patients will need to be put in contact with a navigator to help bridge the gap. Because, as Biden implored us, we must connect people who get diagnosed with the people who can guide them.

We need to be advocates for our patients. As an industry we must work to put our patients’ interests first, and that begins with reducing the stigma of “being sick.” People need to feel comfortable with sharing their experiences in healthcare. Because once people can be open and honest about where they have been, future patients can learn and build on past successes and failures.


While there is work to be done, and the mountain we have to climb seems insurmountable, we can boil everything down to one sentiment. We must always keep the focus on the patient and their overall experience. Because, when we start with empathy and when we have the patience to follow through in our partnership with the patient, we will always be pointed in the right direction.