Mark Kelley wrote a clear piece explaining that friends and providers are still patient’s most trusted medical referral resources in a piece titled, “Why quality reports for hospitals and doctors are interesting but flawed.” Mr. Kelley cited unsynchronized, inconsistent systems as a source of frustration rather than insight for patients. The most common online referral database for patients? Yelp.
We are living in a health care crisis. Health care costs are increasing faster than annual incomes. Family deductibles and premiums are increasingly annually without increasing access to care. And out-of-pocket cost continue to rise for individuals and families without large benefits to overall health. It’s almost unfathomable how patients are going to access adequate, quality care without suffering major setbacks in other areas of their lives. Yet we’re also seeing medical technological advances no other generation has seen or had access to — innovative solutions to diseases and breakthroughs in the development of new medications. What is missing is a clear line of information shared between patients, providers and medical systems. There is significant potential in the health care market to develop a system more reliable than word of mouth referrals.
Health care providers need more efficient and synchronized systems to save on cost. Insurers need high patient volumes in order to make profits. Patients are demanding higher quality care, investing more time in understanding their care and suffering the consequences of the health system’s flaws. What we need is a health care information platform that meets all of these needs and values what every patient, provider, insurer, and investor entered the health care market for — better health outcomes.
Ideally, the government would invest in and create a platform that meets these needs, an organized system that provides qualitative and quantitative reviews of providers, hospitals, patient satisfaction scores, services, medical outcomes and insurance options.
Much like Hospital Compare and Physician Compare, this would be an online database that provides information about provider experience, provider services and cost, outcomes of medical procedures, average wait times for surgeries, etc.
Additionally, patient input would be included such as results from patient satisfaction surveys.
Patients could also leave reviews from their personal experiences and comment on how to navigate specific hospital referral or reimbursement systems, much like a Yelp review, increasing patient trust and usage in the system. Hospitals or provider groups would then be able to clarify information using easily understood language. As federal regulations have helped to improve online medical records, new regulations should be introduced to encourage providers and health care systems to participate as well as ensure accurate and up-to-date information is shared.
As HMO and PPOs become more common, there is a large incentive for provider groups to participate in a widescale public platform. The more information provided regarding their services and care teams, the more patients have access to their information and are likely to choose their network and, if good health care is provided, more likely to leave positive reviews. It’s a system that has benefits for every player.
Finally, as health care becomes more expensive and consumers find themselves shopping around more and providers find themselves needing to be salesmen rather than medical providers, there is a huge market incentive for innovative and advanced platforms. We do not need to give up on asking our friends and doctors for their recommendations, but we do owe it to those who don’t have access to regular care or who don’t trust their doctors to store those trusted recommendations somewhere.
There is no reason in the age of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars that we can’t create a system that benefits health care providers as well as consumers. At the end of the day, if patients have a way to access the care they need and want, they will. If providers have a way to provide information more efficiently leaving them time to focus on their medical care they will as well.
A well-coordinated system that provides valuable information it crucial to develop now. What will patients do when telehealth becomes the norm or need to access care before they have time to speak to their provider. A well-planned review system that focuses on streamlining information can benefit every player in the health care field and would still keep people and their insights front and center.
Brittany Ganguly is a public health graduate student.
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