How Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare Will Transform Patient Experiences

Jared Rankin
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Innovation in healthcare has, and will continue to, dramatically improve patient care and the patient experience

The global pandemic threatened to overwhelm healthcare providers. Healthcare innovators, however, thrived as they looked for ways to continue providing quality care and keep staff and patients safe, while maintaining critical revenue streams.

Once seen as a disruptive innovation in healthcare, all four modalities of telehealth (live video conferencing, store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring and mHealth) all played an outsized role in keeping quality care available. In the early days of the pandemic, healthcare providers offered telehealth for patients by any means necessary — some simply falling back to standalone Zoom meetings to provide video visits until they could stand up more integrated solutions. It worked.

According to a recent Applause survey of more than 5,000 people, almost half (46%) used telehealth services at least once, 89% of whom said they had done so in the past year. The majority of patients who used telehealth agreed (56%) that they found services easy to use; a smaller group strongly agreed (27%). In all, 77% of patients stated they enjoyed using telehealth, which largely provided a win-win for patients and providers despite a truncated path to market.

Just like that, even the most conservative of executives knew that disruptive innovation in healthcare could become a competitive differentiator. The next decade will see current innovations mature and new disruptive ideas for innovation in healthcare that will deliver even better value, care and experiences for patients.

So, how can healthcare providers deliver on these initiatives? Let’s address two key questions about disruptive innovation in healthcare.

Why is innovation important in healthcare?

When we talk about “disruptive innovation in healthcare,” there are a few ways to define what that means. Healthcare providers have long championed technological innovation as a way to deliver better care, from magnetic resonance imaging to new surgical procedures.

But, the patient experience was an area more traditionally neglected in healthcare. Telehealth and the rise of consumerism changed the narrative — today, providers succeed when they provide high-quality patient experiences.

The last two years required digital healthcare to scale — the next step for providers is to dig deeper into the patient experience. The modern generation of patients shops for healthcare in a vastly different way from those in the past. Healthcare is now a consumer-centric market, as patients seek care at the quality and price standards that work for them. Changing regulations make it easier for patients to price shop, understand their in- or out-of-network options, evaluate a care provider’s reputation, and seek alternatives. On the provider side, there is still some work to do — namely developing a more integrated experience that helps all aspects of the clinic run smoothly.

Disruptive innovation in healthcare will shape both patient care and the patient experience, as healthcare providers try to keep doctors’ schedules booked and hospitals running efficiently at full capacity. The value of digital healthcare is now firmly planted in the brains of executives.

What disruptive innovations in healthcare will shape the patient experience?

The healthcare industry is ripe for new patient-empowering technologies. Where, when and what technologies will emerge remains to be seen, but there are several key areas where we can expect disruptive innovation in healthcare.

Internet of Things. There are nearly endless use cases for IoT in any industry. Healthcare is no exception, both in terms of patient care and patient experience.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is one area of growing need as healthcare providers evolve and the point of care expands. Any time a healthcare provider can monitor a patient’s health without requiring an office visit, they can add to the revenue stream and make care recommendations with no overhead — often at a cost savings for patients. IoT devices can gather all sorts of valuable patient data and are becoming more sophisticated and ubiquitous. Providers can monitor a variety of different criteria, such as:

  • body temperature

  • blood pressure

  • glucose levels

  • sleep patterns

  • heart rate or rhythm

  • blood oxygen levels

  • weight/body-fat percentages

Wearable health monitoring devices also exist for a variety of different types of patient demographics for routine or emergency use, including pregnant women, elderly patients and children with unique medical needs. Additionally, recreational wearables are increasingly common in households, as they can provide valuable information about the wearer’s vital or fitness statistics.

However, the proliferation of these devices, not to mention the wide variety of environments in which patients will use them, create a significant challenge for healthcare IT departments. Some patients live in areas with slow cloud upload/download speeds; others might live or work in areas with extreme weather conditions, during which the device must continue to work. How can you test everything?

Applause enables care providers to put medical devices — even before they launch — into patients’ homes to gather early feedback. What was an extremely difficult or impossible testing challenge for healthcare systems and device manufacturers becomes a competitive asset, as Applause testers can identify points of friction or failure, giving confidence in your hardware and software when you launch.

IoT is one disruptive innovation in healthcare that will continue to expand, and continue to require a heavy emphasis on testing. If you skimp on costs or rush to the finish line, you risk the viability of the product in the long term.

Artificial intelligence. AI has become a disruptive innovation in healthcare that offers tremendous opportunities for better patient care and ROI.

AI is playing an increasing role in triage and diagnoses, such as through medial image reading. While humans make the final call on diagnosis and treatment, AI models can gather and process large amounts of image data to offer a second opinion of sorts, which can be especially useful for hard-to-read scans.

While this type of usage is in vogue, AI has ample opportunity to be a disruptive innovation in healthcare logistics and patient experience too. Some areas for AI usage that improve the patient experience or hospital logistics include:

  • chatbot services

  • inventory management

  • front-line triage

  • patient check-in management

  • voice-based platforms and mobile apps

Consider the patient check-in example. Increasingly, hospitals are rolling out kiosks as a way to sign in and check symptoms for appointments. These kiosks are now becoming much more sophisticated. One purpose of these kiosks was to remove a valuable healthcare worker as a touchpoint for check-in and triage, a largely automatable process, not unlike how quick-service restaurants like McDonald’s deploy kiosks to accept in-store orders. Upskilled healthcare workers can focus on more complex triage management. These kiosks will expand to cover more tasks in the near future, including capabilities like facial recognition and natural language processing. When deployed and tested properly, these solutions can provide a differentiating customer experience.

Applause can support these AI-driven interactions by both providing training data and validating outcomes. Outcomes are more likely to meet patient and provider expectations when the AI model has a lot of data to work from, such as voice utterances in a variety of different speech types, dialects, accents and languages, or video of patients from a variety of different backgrounds, BMIs or whatever other training data is required.

Applause has the experience and breadth to provide clean, quality data to train your AI model at scale. When it is time to test AI-driven outcomes, Applause employs testers that mirror your target users and ensure the experience meets their expectations. The Applause global community of digital experts is ready to help facilitate AI as a disruptive innovation for healthcare providers.

mHealth. Doctors, administrators and patients all use mobile phones and apps in their daily lives — and it’s time they become a regular part of patient care. Moving forward, mHealth will prove to be a powerful tool, and a differentiator for patient experience.

Many patients let preventative treatment lapse, or simply go years without scheduling an appointment. These patients risk long-term health consequences that early detection and intervention might catch. While it won’t prevent all illnesses, mHealth apps give providers the opportunity to connect and communicate directly with patients, putting care recommendations right in front of their eyes.

Some situations where mHealth can be useful for healthcare providers and patients include:

  • appointment scheduling and reminders

  • e-prescriptions and medication history access

  • telemedicine delivery

  • electronic health records access

  • regional health advisories or emergency push notifications

Patients largely enjoy mHealth experiences, which meet them where they are. All at once, providers can establish loyalty with patients and provide peace of mind.

As with IoT devices, mHealth comes with a significant device footprint that requires thorough testing. Where patients can be comprised of nearly any demographic, with nearly any device/OS combination, it becomes very difficult to test with the device coverage healthcare providers need.

Applause can be helpful here too, as we’ve established with other health organizations and care providers. During the pandemic, the Israeli Ministry of Health developed an app that used GPS data from mobile devices to alert citizens on areas with high concentrations of positive COVID-19 cases. After turning to Applause, our testers found dozens of defects across a variety of device/OS combinations, including some critical issues, which developers fixed as appropriate.

Not only must these experiences work, but they must meet mobile users’ high expectations. As mobile apps grow more sophisticated and user friendly, healthcare providers must keep up with technological and design standards across different industries. If a user finds your mobile app clunky, they simply won’t use it — and might even switch healthcare providers altogether if your competition makes it easier to perform basic mHealth tasks.

Applause can conduct usability tests on mHealth apps with the user demographics you need. Whether you need a current in-market patient or someone completely unfamiliar with your partner network, Applause stands ready to provide those testers for insights that can put you a step beyond the competition.

Above all else, disruptive innovation in healthcare experiences depends on a commitment to digital quality and patient wellbeing. The Hippocratic Oath doesn’t mention catering to a patient’s digital preferences, but, make no mistake, patients are no longer taking a passive approach to their own healthcare. Providers shouldn’t take a passive approach to innovation. Slow down, and consider a multi-faceted and comprehensive testing approach as you innovate to provide better patient care and experiences.

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