Last year, my parents moved house after 40 years. When searching for a new local GP, my 80-year-old father’s first source of information was online reviews he found on Google. Although he’s intelligent and computer-savvy, he’s hardly the stereotype of the typical social-media-obsessed Internet user. And yet even he knew – and used – the power of the tools at his fingertips.
The last few years have seen dramatic changes in healthcare technology – such as 3-D printed organs, smartphone ECG devices, predictive analytics and Big Data, and nanotechnology robotic surgery. But the biggest change in healthcare is the profoundly different relationship between patients and providers.
It’s become a cliché to say healthcare is becoming like a business and patients are acting more like customers. And yet, many healthcare providers don’t understand this profound change in their profession.
Siemens highlighted this in their “Picture the Future” report about healthcare in Australia in 2020: We’re changing focus from cure to prevention, from sickness to wellness, from acute events to chronic diseases, and – most importantly – from patients to customers.
Healthcare consumers are customers first and patients second, and expect to be treated that way. They expect instant access to information, communication via e-mail and SMS, ownership of their private data, fast response times, and the right to review poor service (and praise exceptional service). They don’t want to sit for hours in germ-filled waiting rooms, no longer automatically trust a white coat and stethoscope, and won’t rely on an opinion from just one healthcare professional.