- Jennifer Fox, head of global external affairs, GE Healthcare
- Dan Martin, EVP, healthcare, PAN Communications
- Gerard Meuchner, chief global comms officer, Henry Schein
- Aaron Radelet, CCO, Walgreens Boots Alliance
- Jessica Shih, director of comms, San Francisco Health Service System
Every aspect of our lives is now viewed through the lens of how the pandemic has impacted it. That is certainly the case as it relates to preferences on how healthcare is delivered.
More than half of consumers (53%) still prefer to receive their healthcare completely in-person, according to a recent PAN Communications study. Meanwhile, nearly one-third (31%) are comfortable with a hybrid model of in-person and virtual. This trend indicates consumers are taking more ownership of their health and dictating more than ever when and where their health conversations take place. For one in 10, those can be mostly virtual, while for 6%, completely virtual.
Regardless of how many patients opt for in-person or virtual care, “the only number that really matters is one,” asserts Radelet. “When you're thinking about your healthcare, that could be your own healthcare, your son or daughter, your mother or father, if you're in a caregiver role. And that's where we're approaching healthcare as we move forward.”
Solving issues for all audiences
“Clinicians are overwhelmed with outpatient and inpatient care,” Fox explains. As virtual care becomes prevalent to reduce the burden on staff, companies such as GE Healthcare are focusing on providing technology that “enhances the workflow” and ensures that the human relationship “doesn't get lost in that virtual-care experience.”
To Meuchner, “the generational acceleration of the adoption of digital will continue to impact the delivery of care.” While some care will need to remain in person, telehealth opens up a lot of exciting possibilities, “ultimately to the benefit of both the physician and the patient,” he adds. For example, patients with intellectual disabilities may find “a much more welcoming experience in the home because they're in a place where they're comfortable.”
Consumers want healthcare “that replicates what they can get in all other facets of their lives, whether it's ecommerce or online banking,” observes Martin. “When a patient is taking far more control of their healthcare, they're using technology to facilitate that.”
However, digital solutions only work if all patients are able to leverage telemedicine. As we transition toward a more hybrid model, it’s important to “look at health equity and how do we reach the most difficult-to-reach individuals who are also most likely to be those with the greatest health needs,” says Shih.
Roundtable participants included (clockwise from top left): Fox, Martin, Shih, Radelet and Meuchner.
Conversations about the metaverse are inescapable. Nearly three out of four (73%) survey respondents have heard of it, one out of four (25%) are excited by its opportunities and nearly half (47%) would like to learn more.
Brands are only beginning to consider how to use the metaverse in the context of healthcare, something four out of ten respondents believe will have a positive impact. At Henry Schein, “we see great opportunity to use the metaverse to make the educational experience richer than what is available now,” shares Meuchner.
For GE Healthcare, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) offer promising opportunities for surgical planning, interpretive guidance and training, particularly in remote areas.
“We have something called a digital expert, which allows us to remotely train technologists on equipment,” Fox explains. “Another area would be multimodal modality use cases, as data complexity and dimensionality increases can be visualized better with AR and VR.”
With all the possibilities in the metaverse, of course, there are pitfalls to consider. Exploring this new platform raises concerns about whether or not it “is going to cause more mental health challenges for people” and if it will be accessible to all patients, Shih cautions. The key is to ensure that services remain personal and focused on individual patients’ needs.
“The metaverse is not going to be successful if it feels like a big, cold, cavernous space,” suggests Radelet. His advice: “Never lose sight of the personal touch, no matter what channel you're using. How can you bring the best of the in-person experience to whatever channel you're using?” The relationship and trust Walgreens has developed with customers in store will make them “much more likely to go into some of the other channels.”
The metaverse can take things a step further with telehealth, especially as patients demand improved access and healthcare organizations look to streamline delivery. The key is to “create better personal presence and social connections that can combine data and intelligence to make the metaverse, hopefully, a kinder, gentler place with some therapeutic results,” concludes Martin. While AR and VR can enable applications for cognitive and group therapy, psychiatric evaluations, weight loss and even physical therapy, audiences first need to be educated on the benefits and value of the metaverse.
Massive volumes of data have become prevalent and available within the healthcare ecosystem as a result of the industry’s increasing adoption of digital technologies. That data will increasingly be used to make better decisions about care as healthcare providers gain insight into “where their practice is thriving, where their practice has opportunities and where there are patient-engagement opportunities. as well as treatment opportunities,” says Meuchner.
In addition, data enables healthcare to look more closely at “health equity, understanding demographics of who's using these services, especially the new services that are coming online,” adds Shih. “This can show us where to pinpoint our efforts.”
In the future, that data can be used to identify and predict a patient’s needs. “That's how you get to personalized care and precision health,” suggests Fox. However, hospitals now have, on average, “about 50 petabytes of data and not enough insights, so there's this cognitive burden for the clinician to make sense of it and derive some answers.” GE Healthcare developed the Edison Intelligence Platform for just this purpose.
You can’t forget how important brand trust is to all of this,” counsels Radelet, who attributes Walgreens’ ability to successfully administer 67 million vaccinations to consumer trust in the brand.
In the future that relationship could help improve other health outcomes by, for example, diversifying clinical trials.
“We can open up some of our patients and customers to be a part of that, so that we can have even better solutions moving forward,” he says.
“About 30% of the world's data volume is being generated in healthcare,” Martin shares. “The question is how do you use it? And how can you accumulate it all, analyze it and use it to make good decisions?”
Click here for access to a very special report from PAN Communications, “Patient Connectivity 3.0: Delivering on Patient Experience Expectations in the Metaverse.”