May 5, 2021

The Future of Healthcare & How to Stand Out Amongst Competitors with Matt Dickson

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About the Episode:

The pandemic has spurred rapid development, adoption, and utilization in the use of digital technologies. Healthcare providers and patients are finding new and innovative ways to deliver and receive services. Our guest Matt Dickson, Senior Vice President of Stericycle Communication Solutions, provides valuable insight into the future of healthcare and how health systems can stand out amongst competitors.

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About the Podcast:

The Engaging Healthcare Podcast by Stericycle Communication Solutions features conversations focused on the challenges, trends, innovations, and hot topics of the healthcare industry. Hear industry experts share their approaches to transforming healthcare and give fresh perspectives on the future of value-based care.

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Mark Angus: “Welcome to the Engaging Healthcare Podcast presented by Stericycle Communication Solutions. I'm your host, Mark Angus. We'll be providing you with insightful commentary on the healthcare industry, challenges, trends and hot topics. To learn more about how we help modernize patient engagement and maximize patient outcomes, head over to StericycleCommunications.Com. The pandemic has spurred rapid development, adoption and utilization in the use of digital technologies. Healthcare providers and patients are finding new and innovative ways to deliver and receive services. Today's guest, Matt Dickson, Vice President of Product, Strategy and G.M. of Stericycle Communication Solutions, is here to provide valuable insight into the future of healthcare and how health systems can stand out amongst competitors. Matt, welcome.”

Matt Dickson: “Thank you for having me on. Appreciate getting an opportunity to share some thoughts today.”

Mark Angus: “Thank you. We look forward to hearing those thoughts from you. So Matt, the pandemic has sped up the adoption for digital health technologies. Given this, what do you think the future of healthcare looks like?”

Matt Dickson: “So certainly, I think there's two ways you have to think about these questions. And one I'd say is a pretty well-tread path, which is what does it look like from the patient facing experience? But I think I'll spend some time today talking about a little bit too, what I think it means for health systems and how they need to kind of change their view of the world, not only with how they interact with patients, but how they need to think about some new players coming to this market and really what this has meant for them from a competitive standpoint as well. Let's start with that kind of patient facing side. What does the future of healthcare look like when you're a patient and how you're going to experience that? I think there's no doubt, and I say this with certainty, at least, you know, for the next 5 to 10 years, I think the hybrid approach is going to be the way that most patients consume and experience healthcare services. So you're going to have a mix of care delivered remotely through telehealth. And that could be via video, via chat, via the good old telephone, and certainly inpatient or in-person visits are not going away. And we've seen that, particularly with states where they started to open some in-person care. The number of virtual visits didn't go down quite a bit. So I think there's still a strong preference for people to physically visit with a clinician or a provider of service. And certainly, I think one of the things you have to consider is what are the kinds of appointments that are good fits for either in person or telehealth? And I think that largely to some degree, we've let consumers drive and make some of those decisions based on their preference. And I think it's probably left people feeling a little frustrated.  We want visits to be, by and large, resolution points, unless you're dealing with a complex problem. And I think a lot of times, unfortunately, telehealth just becomes another gateway for them to pass through right where they have a discussion, and the end result of that discussion is, hey, come in, we need to do x, y and z. Right to do some confirmation. So that's I think that's one of the challenges right now is how do you roll this out in a way where it increases patient satisfaction but does not increase patient frustration. So I think that you hear a lot about this idea of friction, with frictionless, frictionless. I disagree with that a little bit. I think there needs to be a little bit of friction from the perspective of the decision making process about the right fit. Now, once you understand what the right fit is, then we want that process of consuming that service to be as frictionless as possible. But I think that we probably erred a little bit too far in one direction where we're allowing patient preference to dictate venues of care, for example, whether that's telehealth in person and probably need to pull back and think a little bit more about that, about where there's a good fit, and how to inform patients and get them into the right kind of appointment, that's the right fit for the problem they're experiencing. Now, if we look at this a little differently, and I tend to look at this through another lense as well, what has this adoption? And again, to your point, it is really sped up. The adoption of these digital technologies. What does that mean from a health system specific view and I'll tell you, this may be news to many of our listeners. Last year marked a new high watermark for venture capital spending in the patient engagement space in the digital health space. And it looks like this year we're already off to what will make 2021 a new record setting year for the amount of money that's pouring into this space. So I think what you're going to see is more niche type players that are coming to try to engage with a subset of your patients and trying to offer a differentiated experience. And I got to tell you, you know, from my perspective, the concern from the health system level has to be is these are very, very well funded ventures. I look at, for example, Ro is a perfect example of this. So Ro is an aggregated company that owns both Roman Health, the old Rory, which is focused around women's health. They have an online pharmacy, which only does fulfillment. They focus with smoking cessation campaigns. They now have a $5 billion valuation. And they have quite a large amount of money coming in to fund what they're attempting to do. And their proxies delivering all care remotely. But they're focused on a very narrow channel. Right? so they're only focusing on things like sexual health for men. It's things like erectile dysfunction, for example, the focusing on hair loss. For women they're again, focusing on things like sexual health, but also things like menopause and eczema. Again, we talked about smoking cessation. So they're really focused on a very narrow subset of appointments. But they're trying to make it so convenient that the idea of going and having to visit with a doctor to get treatment for that would seem archaic. So the challenge for health systems is, you know, in totality, when you look at these niche players, there are only maybe nibbling at 5% of your appointments or 10% of your appointments, but there's 10, 20, 30 of them at the door, right and then each of them successfully takes away 5% of your appointments, it's really going to take away a big piece of the pie at the end of the day. I think that's really something that health systems have to be aware of when we talk about the adoption of these digital health technologies has really led to a bunch of new entrants into the market.”

Mark Angus: “So that that answers the question, you know, what are health systems going to need to not only provide that consumer like experience to patients, right?”

Matt Dickson: “Yeah, absolutely, and you know, the key there is how do you stand out?”

Mark Angus: “Yeah how do they stand out amongst competitors then? You know what other ways can they do to do that?”

Matt Dickson: “I got to tell you that that's a tough question. And I think the first thing to consider there is convenience is King. Right? So this is what they're considering differentiators. But we talked a little bit about Ro, for example, and really, if you look at some of the things they're reporting about their platform and their approach, what they're reporting or telling us is that 60% of their patients connect to their platform outside of regular business hours. Right so they're saying, hey, you don't have to take time off of work, we can connect with you at a time that's convenient for you. Right and they've got the advantage because they're so narrowly focused on these kind of appointments that make really good sense in a virtual care setting. Right so they're not having to solve a huge, difficult puzzle. They're solving for a very specific subset of problems that are going to be able to handle very agilely with a remote experience our telehealth experience. One of the other things I'd say that when we look at some of the competitors are out there really differentiating around convenience. You know, Amazon is now experience expanding their care platform. And some of their aims, for example, is their aim or goal is to connect you to a provider within 60 seconds of your request is.”

Mark Angus: “ Wow, yeah.”

Matt Dickson: “And again, we're talking about 24/7 being able to connect with a healthcare provider within 60 seconds. Right so they offer, again, via chat, via video, and they've even taken a step further, where they will even dispatch doctors to your house or in-home visits. Right so the house call is back and you have other players in this space. Again, so these are national players, right? You got Ro, you got Amazon with their care platform. You do have some regional players as well out there that are, again, uniquely trying to differentiate around that convenience. Really run that angle a much more convenient than the experience we have today. So you look at, for example, One Medical. They really are a subscription based primary care model. And really, when they may call out their differentiators, right. They basically say, hey, we have a ton of the same or next day doctors appointments. I found this interesting because I think this is a frustration for all of us that experience healthcare, one of the things they say is a differentiator is our appointments actually start on time. So, again, really focusing on that convenience, consumer expectation. And another interesting thing that they kind of report that they do is they actually say we have longer appointments. We take more time to get to know you, more time to understand you. So if you're a health system, how do you compete with that? Well, first, you have to ask yourself, what advantage do I have that they don't? And I think the first advantage is that at least large health systems have is they can engage with you and handle complex conditions. It’s that continuity of care, they're going to be able to really handle anything you throw at them where some of these niche players, again, they're trying to focus on very narrow types of appointments. You certainly, you know, somebody who has cancer, for example, is probably not going to be well served entirely inside the Amazon Care ecosystem. Right so I think the key there is you have to create a personalized connection that leverages the fact that you are going to, this person is going to see that same clinician or physician over and over again. And have that opportunity to build that relationship with some of these other platforms, in all likelihood, if you're trying to connect with the doctor in 60 seconds, is not going to be the person you spoke to last time. It's likely going to be somebody that doesn't know you on a personal level. I think you really got to leverage your advantage. Right, which is building that connection. And that's going to be an important part of that differentiation.”

Mark Angus: “So true. And you've mentioned and highlighted so many good points there about those competitive differentiators and also the need for empathy in that regard, too, in the way that you interact with customers and with patients. But you also mentioned platforms. What solutions or tools do you feel are going to be essential for both the patient and health systems in the future?”

Matt Dickson: “Yeah, we think again, I think about this when I think about this problem again, I think of it from two very specific views. Right what is the patient facing view? And then one of the health systems specific view. And here, I would say I don't think people are putting as much thought as they should into what health systems have to do to prepare for this. And the first thing they have to do is lay the appropriate foundation that is going to enable kind of this next level experience. So the first step in that is know your data.  So when you look at Amazon, for example, we talked a little bit about how they have the ability to connect or their goal is to connect with a physician within 60 seconds of that request. Right there's only one way you can do that. And it's by having extraordinarily good demand forecasting. Guess what Amazon does all day and all night. Right they've got a very large call center operation they have to run, which they have to staff around demand, that they're able to predict. They've got logistic operations, you know, they’re basically their own shipping company now. They've got a plan, and new demand forecasting around. It's really no different than that. Right when you're talking about how many doctors basically or clinicians do we have that on-call? That's going to be, again, an important part of the ability to compete is really knowing that data, understanding that data and understanding that demand. And I think that's where health systems fall a little bit behind today. I even look at the simplest thing from my perspective of health systems probably have a relatively good idea where their patients are coming from. What I think they struggle with is knowing where they have lost opportunities to acquire patients. So how many people are coming to your online scheduling tool, for example, looking for a very specific fit, maybe it's around languages spoken for a specific, and gender, for specific specialty. They come, they don't find what they're looking for, and they leave. Right being able to track and say, hey, we're seeing an increased demand for a specific language spoken, for example, in a specific specialty and being able to address and understand where that demand is and how to meet it. The other thing I think that's important that really requires a bunch of investment, is support tools for your staff. We know that PCP burnout, primary care burnout is a very real thing. Fatigue around primary care physicians in particular. One of the things I read a study that said, the number one predictor of whether a primary care physician would burn out or not is the number of messages they have to respond to coming from patients within the hour. So you could combat that right by looking at AI, our decision support tools, you know, artificial intelligence that can respond to those for you. Right and remove some of that necessary, but maybe what is quantified or qualified is, quote unquote busy work. Right you know, I think when we talk about those tools and really aiming to fight this new breed of competitors is care coordination is critical. Right so they've built their entire platforms around the idea that you're probably not connecting with the same clinician over and over again. Right you've got to have within your health system continuity and care coordination. So when somebody is connecting with you,  whether it's a new specialist or they're connecting remotely in off hours to a clinician that you may have on call, that they're not going to have to really go through all of their medical history, that they're not going to have to reassess the amount of risk and really have a deep understanding of where this patient is at from an overall health perspective, what risk factors exist and how the current issue or problem plays into that. So I think that's another big area that is maybe not thought of as interconnected or interrelated to patient engagement. But without getting those underlying and fundamental tools, I think it makes it much harder to do the level of engagement and really enable that kind of next level experience that allows you to compete. Now from the patient facing side, when we talk about what I think is going to be essential for them to compete in the future. And really around patient expectations, a lot more automated workflows, right. To provide real time access to information and most importantly, to provide real time failover to their clinical or non-clinical resource. So, you know, how do you do that? Right so you're going to have to have conversational based chat, conversational base SMS, conversational based search that then if they cannot get the information they're looking for, cannot get to the crux of what they're seeking, being able to, in real time engage with either clinical or non-clinical resource to get that information. Online scheduling, of course, a huge part, I think, of creating that level of experience and frictionless that we talked about. Again, I think it's important in your online scheduling, you think about building up front the right tools to make sure that you're picking the right fit from a venue care perspective, whether that's urgent care, E.R. or telehealth or whatever the case may be, but once that decision has been made, getting those people so it's super easy for them to find the right fit for them from a preference standpoint, again, that can be around language spoken, gender, et cetera, and very easily find an appointment time that works best for them. And I'll tell you another thing that's going to be critical, important to competing. We talked about Amazon's platform, typically connecting you within 60 seconds of a request. You've got to focus on access. And I think, again, this goes back to knowing your data, know where you're having issues with access based on patient preference. And the problem today is you're not properly tracking missed opportunities to know where there's an access issue, et cetera. We recently did a study, our first patient engagement survey, our number one and one of the interesting things we found is that 82% of patients will seek care elsewhere if they can't find an appointment in seven days. So that shows you how acute the issue is around patient access. And I think that patients are getting it will sound funny when I say our patients are getting more impatient around wanting to wait for an appointment, waiting to engage and waiting to resolve their health issue. And last thing there, you talked about it is creating that connection, right? We talked about that is the key way that their competitive advantage, right traditional health systems. So empathy is an important part of that, creating an emotional connection is important part of that, feeling like you're a trusted resource is an important part of that. But today, typically the way communication happens is a lot in a lot of ways, it's one size fits all. It's not very tailored. And we need to be tailoring communications again, not around preference per se. We need to get past the channel preference to the channel of action. Right what are the things we can say? What channel do we need to engage patients in to take the right behaviors to help them further and better their long term health. Right so we have appointment, in time, communication for a lot of health systems today, right around an appointment, maybe around reminding them to get a flu shot, for example. But what we don't have, I think, is this continual connection or contact point that does create, again, that more emotional connection allows the health systems to really demonstrate their empathy and a more consistent basis. And really, you got to tailor that. And that's tough. The needle, the thread, right, because you don't want to overwhelm because people will opt out of at the same time. And that's why I say it has to be tailored when it's one size fits all. I think that's what drives people to opt out because it isn't relevant to them. So finding that information, tailoring it to the specific individual based on their medical history, current conditions, age, gender, all of those things need to be considered within that communication plan. So you, again, you're sending out relevant, meaningful information to them that, again, allows you to connect on a more consistent basis.”

Mark Angus: “Matt, thank you. This has been really valuable insights into the future of healthcare and how health systems can stand out amongst competitors. Thank you for taking the time to join us for the podcast today.”

Matt Dickson: “Absolutely appreciated you sharing your time with me and giving an opportunity to speak with you and share those thoughts.”

Mark Angus: “It's been a pleasure. Thank you Matt.”

Matt Dickson: “All right. Thanks.”

Mark Angus: “Thanks for listening to the Engaging Healthcare Podcast presented by Stericycle Communication Solutions. Continue the conversation by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you enjoyed the podcast, be sure to subscribe. Until next time.”

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