On May 8, 2019 MM&M (the media group “Medical, Marketing & Media”), held their annual Transforming Healthcare conference, a day-long event dedicated to enabling pharma and medical device marketers to explore healthcare’s cutting edge digital initiatives and experiences. The topics for each of the panels focused on the areas of healthcare going through a transformative rapid rate of change.
While the conference is centered around technology, the dominant themes of the day were ways to make healthcare more human. These conversations included innovations that are improving doctor/patient relationships, pharma executives who are applying behavioral science to design better digital solutions and marketers who are using empathy to improve patient outcomes.
Across several panels, physicians and insurance and pharma executives alike agreed that the adoption of telemedicine will fundamentally change the dynamic of patient and doctor relationships. Leaning into the digital transformation of health and patient behaviors is disrupting the “doctors appointment” paradigm and replicating tangible user experiences that patients want.
Patients’ discontent with the current healthcare experience is a big contributor to the growth of virtual care. Millennials aren’t bonding strongly with their healthcare providers or the medical system; many reported they do not have a go-to primary care physician that they schedule with repeatedly. Long wait times juxtaposed with brief in-room doctor interaction is an identified barrier here—doctors are listening to patients for about 16 seconds before interrupting with medical direction.
On the other hand, having the modality of seeing patients over video forces doctors to focus on patients’ history. In practicing with telemedicine, doctors return to forging personal connections because the experience is focused on their story. With telehealth appointments, patients are feeling a sense of partnership and a different kind of emotion participating in this convenient treatment approach. This is particularly apparent in consumer reviews of telemedicine apps, where the most common theme is patients’ gratitude for doctors’ ability to listen and build a good rapport.
From an HCP perspective, doctors are recognizing the benefits of telemedicine and the adaptation of the tool to their practices. Some doctors shared their own motivations for wanting to practice with telemedicine, from lifestyle changes associated with growing families, to the unique insight it can provide for specialists like allergists who can now see inside their patients’ homes and find underlying causes for symptoms in a whole new way.
There is an immediate need for HCPs to be trained in website manner, which is a unique digital translation of the traditional bedside manner they’ve learned in medical school, as it’s estimated that 40-50% of appointments will be virtual in the next 5 years.
In addition to the quality of patient and doctor interactions, telemedicine also improves access, particularly for patients in rural areas. In some instances, doctors have reported cutting their no-show rates in half by offering virtual visits for patients with long commutes. Virtual visits also allow doctors to be more efficient, as they can see more patients in a shorter amount of time and cut down on wait times.
imre Health’s very own Kirsty Whelan, VP of Strategy, led a panel alongside Ryan Billings, Executive Director of Digital Engagement at AMAG Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Kristy Shine, Professor and Health Designer at Jefferson University.
Across their respective fields, each of the panelists observed the importance of active listening in identifying true patient needs, which ultimately produces better outcomes. Ryan Billings discussed how imre Health and AMAG Pharmaceuticals used this approach to improve the number of women seeking treatment for painful sex after menopause.
By applying empathy to this business challenge, imre and AMAG identified that women’s inability to have a productive and compassionate conversation with their doctors was the biggest barrier for treatment, as many doctors left women feeling isolated and dismissed. To facilitate more two-way conversations and allow women to explore different treatment journeys, imre and AMAG created a chatbot on Facebook, a first-of-itskind solution in pharma.
Kirsty Whelan outlined three steps to applying empathy in healthcare: