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Why and How You’ll See More of Healthcare as a Service

Sarah Morgan

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The mercantile world has been steadily shifting away from permanent purchases to as-a-service and on-demand models. It began with software, as users began paying monthly fees to license online access rather than buying disks. The philosophy may date back to Japanese engineering principles of just-in-time production.

Why pay to possess a good or service you only need occasionally? Why not simply ensure that you have the best, the moment you need it? Today, the simplicity and utility means the as-needed model exists everywhere — including healthcare.

Convenience on Call: The New Normal
Consumers expect immediate responses and know technology obviates the need for brick-and-mortar outposts. They want high-quality services without overhead. We expect to see this happen more in healthcare in 2016, as services like in-store clinics, telemedicine and mobile app tools proliferate and their use continues to take the place of some standard HCP office visits.

Telemedicine continues to grow. It can not only address healthcare inequalities in developing nations, making forbidding geography and a lack of on-site provisions irrelevant, but it can also make a difference in our own backyards.

Although it’s still met with skepticism by some payers (particularly Medicare), telemedicine is covered by others, including UnitedHealthcare and Anthem. And in addition to online-only providers like HealthTap or many others, traditional care centers are adding virtual services. New York’s Mount Sinai, St. Louis’ Mercy and Philadelphia’s Jefferson University Hospitals are some of those already offering video consultations.

Telemedicine can be as simple as an SMS text, but companies like iDAvatars, formerly Geppetto, are creating AI-driven virtual “doctors”, like their Sophie that can not only offer a diagnosis, but also emotional support. Perhaps the sick day of the future will begin by picking up your tablet to chat with Sophie.

There are healthcare-as-a-service offerings closer to home, too, with local pharmacies getting on the bandwagon. Walgreens’ app now offers telehealth services in many states. Pharmacy giants CVS Health, Walmart and Walgreens Boots Alliance are creating more in-store offerings to provide retail-based primary care. And doctor house calls, commonplace for our grandparents and great-grandparents, may stage a comeback. A recent study found that house calls for seniors costs thousands less, patients felt more cared-for, and physicians reported greater job satisfaction.

The kinks are still being worked out — Verizon and Google shuttered their telehealth attempts — and there’s still some timidity in the minds of consumers. But this shift toward shared models is affecting healthcare overall and presents a particular opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, which has been centralizing shared services for decades. To date, pharma’s expertise has largely been used internally, not offered as a service, but there is a potential wealth of information that could be shared with the rest of the healthcare industry. It stands to reason: If nobody knows shared services better than pharma, perhaps no one is better suited to offer them to patients.

Intouch has helped several pharma companies create apps and online portals that provide patients with health and wellness services, whether in conjunction with a specific treatment or at certain times in the patient journey. Let’s talk about how “as a service” can become a service offering for you.

 

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