41AMGA.ORG SEP TEMBER 2019
Not so long ago, other than actual face-to-face conversation, the telephone was our primary verbal communication resource. It still is, of course, but it’s evolution as a communication device is both staggering and unprecedented—texting, instant messaging, and
countless social media platforms are now inherent to phones.
The devices themselves have long since been pried off
the wall and computerized to fit into our pockets. Personal conversation—true, orally based exchanges—have
almost gone the way of the house call. But remember? In
desperate attempts for privacy, we snaked the phone cord
through rooms, around doorways, across coffee tables, and
even into the bathroom while still anchored to the device’s
wall-mounted base. After the cord could take no more punishment, we delighted in holding it by the end that connected
to the base to let it spin with abandon until it freed itself
from a tangled mass of knots. Minutes later—voilà—the
cord righted itself, and the phone once again became flexible
enough to let us stray a few precious feet, all the while keeping us tethered to the foundation.
While still a mainstay for most healthcare providers, con-
sumer use of landlines has become all but obsolete. Sure, a
few die-hards still use them, but phones have evolved to the
point where they’ve become an intrinsic part of everyday life.
We don’t have to search for a phone to make a call—it’s in our
pocket. We can order a pizza on the way home from work, but
can we get our physician on the line
for a quick consultation? Phones
travel with us and have adapted to
our lifestyles. Can we say the same
for the delivery of health care?
Apple long ago realized that
to be practical—to be useful—
phones had to conform to the
evolving needs and expectations of forward-looking human
behavior. Hence, Apple became
a consumer-driven enterprise. In
essence, although Apple makes the
phone, we the consumers tell Apple
how the phone should function.
We don’t tell Apple how to make
the phone, but do we tell them the
qualities that the phone should
exhibit. The power to control Apple, therefore, lies with the
people. Consumers either buy the phone or they don’t. In fact,
a phone isn’t just a phone. It schedules, reminds, organizes,
talks, texts, and broadcasts. The masses quickly reject
devices that don’t function optimally.
How’s that Palm Pilot working?
Health care can take a lesson from the telecommunications
arena. If the cell phone industry were to look back, they’d
soon realize that they got ahead of the game by looking ahead.
Much like the crank phone gave way to the rotary, gave way to
the push-button and innovative “Princess” models, gave way
to the cell, gave way to the smartphone—many facets of the
healthcare industry are lagging in the rotary zone.
The time is nigh for transformational redesign. Like the rest
of the world’s economy, health care is a consumer-driven
service. Some would rightfully argue that health care is a
commodity. The frame of mind that got us here—if you build
it, they will come—is no longer valid. We built it, but patients
no longer need to come. Now, they call or Facetime or Skype,
and the care delivery community needs to answer. Technology
is on the side of the consumer. Employers and patients—the
insurers and the insured—have grown weary of bearing the
cost burden and seeing little in return, save high premiums
and insurmountable deductibles. Cost-shifting is not a
healthcare reform strategy.
Quite simply, we’re behind the
times. We must transform just to
catch up—never mind gazing into
the future (yet gaze, we must).
Where does the transformation
Close to home, of course.
The answer, quite literally, is in our
hands. Think of the mobile device as
your “office on the go.”
That is your platform.
Remember—the core health-
care delivery objective is to provide
health care—to deliver value to the
patient. (Note the word “patient,”
not the “insured”; not the “con-
sumer,” the person.) Care-in-place
X Stop using dial-up when other industries are
on broadband. The electronic age has long
since bypassed the healthcare industry.
X Transformation is literally at your fingertips
and in your pocket
X Consumers, patients, points-of-contact . . .
X Look forward—not back.
X Meet patients—people—where they are.
X We have met the competition, and it is us.
X Technology is a tool—communication is the
X Beyond all else, leverage humanity.