Medicine’s paradigm shift is a microcosm of a trend occurring in society

In 1994 Jeff Bezos revolutionized how consumers shop. He founded Amazon.com.

Shortly after, Ebay followed suit—solidifying a paradigm shift that has redefined shopping from an in-person to online experience. In 2004, Facebook capitalized on another trend: individuals were becoming more comfortable sharing personal information online. Interestingly, people did not wake up one morning and decide it would be convenient to shop from home, or that sharing pictures with their friends online could be fun. Rather, in both cases, there has been a sustained movement towards new values and preferences that have fundamentally changed how individuals shop and socialize.

I give the two examples of paradigm shifts above to bridge into a paradigm shift I believe is currently happening in the field of medicine. In the past, medicine was a patient-centered model. In the early days, doctors visited patients in their homes. They were deeply rooted in their communities, and knew their patients on a personal level. Unfortunately, around the turn of the 18th century, there was a shifting point away from a patient-centered model and towards a doctor-centered model. While the shift produced major breakthroughs in medicine, it also created a major disconnect between doctors and their patients. Doctors have become notorious as the ultimate source of knowledge, and only know their patients at an arms length. Since then, the medical institution has grown into a powerful bureaucracy with an affinity for rules and order.

However, there is currently a trend in healthcare against the modern institution of medicine. There is a growing segment of the population who want a personalized, efficient, and affordable healthcare experience. The growth of health tourism and alternative medicine centers support this assertion. Winning healthcare providers will be the facilities that respond to the changing needs and preferences of their patients. Losers will cling to rules that do not make sense. In my opinion, winners will challenge conventional standards and ask questions like:

Why do I have to fill out my previous medical history when I switch doctors, or apply for new medical insurance? There should be a database for that.

Why do I need to take a slip of paper to the pharmacy and wait 30 minutes, instead of my doctor sending it in real time, having the medicine ready for pickup when I get there, and have it automatically charged to my Visa? Why does the doctor need to ask me about allergies when he or she already has it on file? There should be an app for that.

You get the idea. I believe this paradigm shift is a microcosm of a greater trend occurring in society. Structurally, organizations are getting flatter. Trade and travel barriers are lowering. Services and products are becoming more integrated and compatible. Mass customization and personalization of experiences are the norm. People can personalize the color of their Dell laptop computer, make a custom laser engraving on their iPod, so why can’t they personalize their experience with their doctor?

Great value exists for healthcare providers who are willing to leverage technology in their business. Technology can reduce costs and wasteful practices, while attracting incremental patients seeking an exceptional experience. Indeed, it is ironic that leveraging cutting edge technology can bring you back to the basics of a patient-centered healthcare model.

Paul Fischer is an intern at HealthFinch.

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