News & Views

Breaking Down: What’s Really Wrong with the Healthcare System?

Breaking Down: What’s Really Wrong with the Healthcare System?

Digital Health, Health Innovation, Mission

By Leah Sparks, CEO & Founder

 

After all the innovation, all the new programs, all the new tools – too many healthcare metrics are still trending in the wrong direction! Overall costs, chronic disease, maternal mortality, readmissions, patient experience – outcomes seem to be getting worse even as medical treatments advance.

How Did Things Break So Badly?    

From Wildflower’s perspective, there are three main reasons the system is stalling. They are:

 

Unrealistic Expectations

For years, we’ve told patients to start acting like healthcare consumers without giving them the ability to follow through. We’ve installed high-deductible plans, shifted costs, and tried to force them to make smarter decisions. We’ve asked patients to be consumers, but we haven’t made it easier! We’ve created digital applications – but are they really working?

Health care is not online retail; it’s not banking; it’s not travel. It’s impossible for patients to act like consumers because it’s still too difficult to understand and navigate the system. It is virtually impossible for individuals to approach the healthcare system as a true consumer, in the same way they would engage an attorney or a bank or a car dealer. We must change our relationship with patients from one that is legacy, antiquated and offline to one that’s modern and digital. And we must create better pathways for consumers so they can receive trusted guidance, education and support as they manage their health.

Silos within Silos

It’s been said for some time that there are too many silos in the healthcare system. And each stakeholder in healthcare is facing its own challenges because of these dividing forces: Employers are growing frustrated with the amount of “waste” in their benefit offerings. Providers are struggling to establish long-term, loyal relationships with patients. Payors are trying to increase engagement and relevance with members.

We live in an era where “there’s an app for that,” and where new “solutions” are introduced on a daily basis. Many of these solutions are being developed outside the healthcare industry by direct-to-consumer companies who are capitalizing on the current limitations of the system. They are often targeted at very specific use cases and aren’t easily incorporated into the broader delivery of health care. Even within the healthcare industry, we continue to create silos within silos. Despite all the talk of treating the “whole patient” the industry is enamored with point solutions that address specifics parts of the individual, many times at the expense of more holistic care. Take digital therapeutics as an example. We have discussed before how these solutions can make a real difference, but if not integrated properly, they will further splinter the delivery of care. We have to continue to push the system toward integration.

Chaotic Change

Countless digital health innovations are riding atop a technological tsunami that is currently crushing us. Technology can be our best friend, but it also can be a fatal foe in our pursuit to improve the system. Right now, the swift current of technology is pushing and pulling the typically slow moving healthcare infrastructure, creating chaos for those who are stuck in the middle, i.e. the consumer.

Add to this the massive shifts occurring within the system related to value-based care and the disruptive new models of care that are being introduced by non-traditional healthcare players, such as Amazon. Amidst this chaotic level of change, the entire industry hangs in the balance. Sounds dramatic, but it’s a very accurate depiction of where we stand today.

 

So, Where Do We Go From Here?

Most individuals would like to act more like health consumers. They do want more control over their healthcare. But we must make it easy. We must equip them with proper tools. We must effectively engage them as active participants in their own health.  We have to streamline the process and help them come to us. We must knock down silos. And we must harness the power of technology instead of allowing it to drown us in endless possibilities.

If you are interested in learning more about repairing our system, we would be happy to share Wildflower’s strategy for personalizing healthcare. Contact us today for a private briefing.