Council Post: Taking Care Of Our Health Should Be A Reflex: How A Former Big Tech Executive Believes We Can Transform Healthcare In America Leave a comment

Robbie is Chief Product Officer at 98point6, pairing deep technology with board-certified MDs to deliver on-demand text-based primary care.


So often today, the moment someone has a concern or curiosity about their health, they turn to their search engine for answers. What they get back is a mess of unqualified, impersonalized and unhelpful or misleading medical advice. But, that impulse is understandable; the internet is where we go for answers for pretty much everything, even for our most pressing health concerns.

The reality is there are so many barriers in traditional healthcare today; long wait times for appointments, not enough doctors in rural areas or inner cities and financial fear grounded in pricing opacity and excessive costs. The internet is not only a convenient resource; for many people, it may be the only resource. If we want people—all people—to live healthier lives, then the healthcare industry can’t be satisfied with simply making a treatment less expensive or a trip to the doctor’s office more straightforward or a medication more effective.

As the former VP of Amazon Prime, I can tell you that people didn’t just start using the service because it was available. Almost every prominent retail company offers some sort of e-commerce option, so why did Prime become the go-to in every household globally? It’s because it was so dramatically and remarkably better; it was far easier, cheaper and more accessible than brick-and-mortar shopping. The same can be said for industry-disruptive companies such as Netflix and Uber, both of which took advantage of our tech-first society to create innovative products that would quickly—and seamlesslybecome integral parts of people’s daily lives. And I firmly believe we can do the same with healthcare.

Technology Can Make Healthcare Accessible—And Intuitive

With advancements in technology, telemedicine is uniquely positioned to make this massive shift to provide access to personalized, high-quality healthcare that’s incredibly easy to use. The question is, how can we leverage this technology not only to provide all people with affordable access to healthcare but also to create the “reflex” to seek medical attention when they need it?

When cellphones were first introduced in the early 1970s, few people could have predicted the impact they would have on our daily lives. But, as technology advanced, we became more dependent on these devices; they enable us to do everything from ordering groceries to sending work emails and managing our finances. So, if we are already using our smartphones for nearly every other aspect of our lives, think about how much easier accessing quality healthcare can be if we can do it right from the device we always have within arm’s reach.

If we want to create the reflex for people to seek care whenever and wherever they need it, then we need to make healthcare accessible to everyone, including the millions living in areas without sufficient healthcare options. More than 80% of U.S. counties lack adequate healthcare infrastructure in some shape or form, meaning over a third of the population is currently living in what we call “primary care deserts.” Instead of being in a position where they feel forced to deal with their health concerns on their own, people can digitally receive a diagnosis and treatment before the issue potentially worsens.

We can eliminate the need to cancel in-person visits due to time constraints or financial hardships by offering an affordable digital option. And we can use these virtual capabilities to reach those living in primary care deserts or who lack access to transportation or flexibility in their schedules, or all of the above. Instead of waiting weeks or months to see a physician, patients can address their health concerns when they need to, regardless of where they are located.

I believe telemedicine can do with healthcare what companies like Amazon did with Prime shopping or Uber did with transportation: remove all the traditional barriers so people can fundamentally change their behaviors and their lifestyle and achieve their full health potential.

Leveraging Tech Can Improve The Overall Patient Experience

To break down traditional barriers, we need to go above and beyond to provide people with more realistic options. We need to address all of the aforementioned pain points people face as well as innovate the patient experience itself.

Having access to health services has a profound impact on every aspect of a person’s health, yet almost 1 in 4 Americans do not have a primary care provider or access to regular medical services. With digital care, not only can we make scheduling visits, ordering labs and getting prescriptions more efficient, but we can make it possible for people to develop and nurture their relationships with primary care providers so they can receive more personalized and comprehensive care. When people form a relationship with a virtual care team that understands their concerns and knows their history and individual healthcare needs, they’re much more likely to experience positive outcomes. In turn, those positive experiences can encourage more people to develop and proactively maintain a relationship with their primary care provider when possible.

Empowering patients to take charge of their health doesn’t happen with just one or two changes; we need to bundle the affordability, modality and quality of care together in one easy-to-use product that people can access from anywhere. Creating a product isn’t just about making it a little better or a little less expensive; it’s about making something so spectacularly and ridiculously easy to use that it actually shifts people’s behavior. It’s about identifying and addressing every single roadblock in a way that finally makes it easy (dare we say habitual) to take charge of their health and invest in their future.

The second someone has a concern or curiosity about their health, it should be an instinct to grab their phone and get care—from the most appropriate provider. It should be ridiculously easy and affordable to access that care. With this incredible ease of use and efficacy, we can, in turn, help create the reflex for all people to take better care of their health.

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