My brother says that I am, “so creative because I fill my head with so much junk.” By “junk” he means the science fiction and fantasy novels I prefer to his erudite Manhattanite fare. I do love a good story and they are all the better when there is a magical component or a spaceship involved. He is correct though, what I sacrifice in knowledge of ancient history or the latest thinking in couch design, I more than make up in fodder for the imagination.
Perhaps due to this, I have been honored to have been selected to be a member of panelists discussing “The Future of Provider Search” at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco next week. I have been put on a panel to imagine the future of how we will find our doctors in the future, or more specifically, “The Future of Provider Search”. To clarify my thoughts on the subject and share them with you, interested reader, I have jotted them down for your commentary and criticism. I am more than willing to be wrong, so feel free to tell me where I err.
First, I think the Health 2.0 organizers have it right by not saying “Physician” search, it is truly “Provider” or even “facility” search we will see in the future. As medicine heads rapidly toward a two-tier system where the corporations and institutions build reputations vs. the providers who stay the course of personal reputation and attention, more and more you will be finding “The Cancer Centers of America” vs. Dr. David Fishman, world renowned, cutting edge Caner researcher, clinician, and a heckuva nice guy. CCA is an emerging brand in medicine and is doing very well. You may get a medical protocol influenced or inspired by someone of Dr. Fishman’s caliber but you won’t get Dr. Fishman himself. Dr. Fishman, at Mount Sinai, will in turn draw patients to the hospital. But what do you search for? The answer is both, but through different channels. So the first change we see and have already seen is a great deal of corporate branding for facilities and individual branding for providers. Healthcare.gov has some interesting facility quality data online, Healthgrades, Vitals, and Angie’s List have all gone down that road too for not only providers, but the facilities in which they work. Advertising by facilities has risen dramatically too. Regardless of what we search for, what we will find will be a mix of solutions from individual practitioners of allopathic medicine to alternative medicine healers to the hospital down the street to the local surgicenter to a variety of medical tourism options from around the world. I know, because this is what you will find on FairCareMD.
A second change is what people search for. With the blossoming ePatient movement afoot, empowered by a second generation of health information sites (called Health 2.0) like Patients like Me, the Journal of Participatory Medicine, and I’m Too Young for This!, patients are far more educated and empowered in their search. I have the benefit of 20,000 searches (no personally identifiable information) on our site I can sift through and the pattern I see is that searchers have more knowledge than I would expect. Granted, our system has a predictive search function that helps with the medical terms but people have to know what a term means in order to select that option. With the ePatient movement we see more people who are educated in their needs so the searches will be getting smarter. Less “my Knee Hurts”, more “average ACL replacement recovery days outcome data”. With this level of knowledge empowered patients are learning what to look for in a provider, though they often choose differently than we would expect.
The third trend I see is increased consumer behavior. There is more shopping for care. With CMS (our government) predicting that the amount people pay directly for their own care will continue to rise through more Consumer Directed Health Plans (CDHPs) with higher deductibles, price will continue to rise as a key decision making factor. The millions of searches on sites like ours shows this pretty clearly. Patients are in the driver’s seat and medical centers and physicians are responding by listing their services with prices online. Negotiating systems like ours are enabling this change. This alters the dynamic of what needs to be done to attract patients. With a 27% increase in Consumer Directed Health Plans and over 22% of all private insurance having high deductibles, providers no longer only have to have an insurance participation strategy, but a consumer directed one that includes pricing as well – that is what many people are searching for.
Finally, providers and patients are searching for trusted communities. The way sermo, ACOR, dLife, and other communities circumvent HIPAA is telling as well. Like us, they discourage the use of a identifiable public user name. The fact that there is such huge participation in these online communities that become trusted resources is critical. The trust must exist in the corporation to protect the information and discussion from outsiders and advertisers. We search for something larger than ourselves to share our medical journey with and walled communities fill this void. They represent a viable mix of sharing and safety that people gravitate towards. Of course, providers will be discussed in such communities as well but care is provided too though semi-anonymous, semi-private patient to patient, provider to patient, and provider to provider online interactions.
Finally, no discussion would be complete on this topic without discussing the public social media space. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook have become excellent platforms for providers. Blogs and microblogs are by far the best way to find and be found in healthcare. The new Word of Mouth is online and the providers that are online deliver amazing information and build their brand at the same time. This too, is the future of provider search, though I believe only as an adjunct to Direct Provider Access systems (DPAs) like ours.
Taking all this into account, we designed FairCareMD.com. All of the above are empowered and enabled through our system. Providers and Patients seem to agree, but what do you think?
I am looking forward to Health Innovation Week in San Francisco and hope to see you there to continue the conversation in person and online. What else do you think will change?