Healthcare is deeply personal for every single one of us, and yet the way most of us experience healthcare is decidedly impersonal. This typically starts from the moment we schedule an appointment and step into our provider’s office. We get asked the same questions multiple times. We have to fill out generic forms and paperwork repeatedly. Our care provider is running from patient to patient making it feel like they don’t know who we are or what we discussed during our last visit. It’s well past time for all of this to change.
There is a lot of talk about how healthcare needs to integrate the best practices of consumer technology into the realm of the patient experience. Undoubtedly, we can learn from the successes of personalization in consumer tech, but we can actually do much better. With the latest advancements in technology, we are on the cusp of creating a far better experience for patients and providers alike.
Over the past several weeks I’ve been at multiple healthcare industry conferences. I’ve attended keynotes, breakouts, and panel sessions, and had dozens of one-to-one conversations with industry leaders. Inevitably, the discussion turns to consumerism and the common refrain is that healthcare is so far behind other industries when it comes to creating a highly personalized experience for patients. Within the industry, there is a go-to example that many like to use to illustrate how far behind we are, and that’s the process of checking in for a flight on an airline.
Think about it, the story goes, with a couple of taps on your phone, you can check in for your flight and instantly be ready to board a plane and head out on that much-needed vacation. To be sure, compared to what the process was like before mobile phones, airline apps, and QR codes, it is a major process improvement. It’s a simple, streamlined, straightforward consumer experience. It’s also an example that illustrates the vast untapped potential of personalization in the process.
I’m a very frequent flyer who lives in Boston. Despite hundreds of flights, the check-in system on my preferred airline still hasn’t learned that I prefer a window seat over an aisle seat. Similarly, I consistently visit my parents in Houston every four months. My airline does not use this information to proactively recommend the best time for my next trip or to notify me of the lowest prices available on that specific route. Although the flight check-in process is quick and easy, it lacks the intelligence and personalization that would make it truly exceptional. When I say I am optimistic that we can do better in healthcare, it’s because we are sitting on a wealth of data that lives, largely untapped, in the electronic health record (EHR). We know our patients more deeply and more personally than Amazon or Netflix could ever hope to.
Today, advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, like large language models (LLMs), make it possible to constantly analyze vast amounts of data from EHRs and other sources in real-time. Using that automated analysis, we can create highly-tailored experiences for every single patient, offering customized recommendations, appointment reminders, surfacing a relevant clinical trial, and offering transportation suggestions based on each individual’s unique needs and preferences. And we can do all of this without having to hire more staff or burden existing staff with these workflows.
What’s more, the benefits of a highly personalized healthcare experience go far beyond convenience. As patients become more engaged with their healthcare, they are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, attend appointments, and actively participate in their care. Going a step further, personalized healthcare has the potential to address health disparities. By employing AI and ML algorithms to analyze data from diverse patient populations, we can identify patterns and trends that may not be immediately evident to healthcare providers. These insights can inform targeted interventions and promote more equitable care for all.
By harnessing the power of AI, ML, and the vast amount of data contained in EHRs and other digital systems, we can create a more intelligent and personalized experience for patients that rivals the best of consumer technology. My hope is that the next time I go through the conference circuit the conversation is about how healthcare not only matches the gold standard of consumer tech but surpasses it, setting a new benchmark for excellence in personalized care experiences.
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