Healthcare is complicated. I took a couple hours off work last week to visit the dermatologist, and the entire experience made me think to myself, “Shouldn’t this be easier by now?”
We’ve managed to sequence the entire human genome, get a man to the moon, and motivate even the most extreme hoarders to adopt the KonMari Method.
Surely, doctors ought to be able to see patients at their scheduled appointment times, successfully transfer medical histories between coordinated care providers, and schedule follow-up appointments without making us wait in 10+ minute lines while other angry patients inquire about their unexpected copay/coinsurance/deductible costs. But sadly, these things continue to live in the “dream category” of life, along with 24/7 access to white sand beaches and piña coladas.
While I was waiting to see the doctor in the exam room (after already waiting 25 minutes in the reception area), I began conjuring up what an ideal doctor’s appointment might look like: a text message letting me know the doctor was running late that day, a heads-up about my out-of-pocket costs, and maybe even a virtual check-out process. Healthcare seems to still be an industry that prefers having patients fill out paper forms, get information from brochure racks and conduct business by telephone.
The experts are all saying healthcare is shifting towards consumerism (which it is), but maybe I want to take it one step further by saying that I want my healthcare experiences to spark JOY. Full disclosure: I say this after having binge watched Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
For those who aren’t familiar with Marie Kondo, she’s the organizing phenomenon who’s responsible for the recent influx of donations at thrift stores across the country. She encourages cherishing only the things that spark joy in one’s life and goes on to say, “the decision to pursue what sparks joy extends far beyond its first application in home tidying.” I wholeheartedly agree — it’s a way of life that I’d like to see in my healthcare!
Instead of mailed postcards and robo calls reminding me to schedule my appointments, how about sending me a text message that allows me to schedule right then and there? What if instead of arriving early to fill out paperwork, I could answer the questions on my iPhone at my own convenience? And what if my responses were available to all of my providers, not just the specialist with whom I made the appointment?
Healthcare needs to meet patients in channels where we spend our time, and for most of us, that’s our mobile phones. These days, how far could you walk without someone bumping into you because they’re looking down at their phone instead of up at the street? In downtown San Francisco, I’d say 3 minutes, tops. Instead of reinventing the wheel, let’s just GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!
If we’re not forcing snail mail down patients’ throats and asking them to clear half their days to fill out forms, maybe we’ll actually start hearing about healthcare wins instead of woes. Incorporating mobile messaging into healthcare isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but it might lead to better patient engagement and satisfaction, which are linked to increased treatment adherence and provider reimbursement.
New York Times bestselling author and star of aforementioned Netflix show, Marie Kondo likens the feeling of joy to holding a puppy. I would liken the feeling to seeing my phone light up with a text from my doctor telling me she was running 30 minutes late, so I didn’t have to rush to wrap a meeting to run out to the appointment. Late doctor. Don’t rush. All of healthcare doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can even spark joy.