The Tinder-ization of Healthcare

 

Harry Greenspun

Chief Medical Officer, Managing Director, Health Solutions

Korn Ferry

June 12, 2018

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Johnny Lee famously lamented that he was “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” Rather than “searchin’ their eyes,” he should have been searching their online profiles. As with so many other aspects of our lives, technology has transformed how we find love and relationships. The Pew Research Center published an enlightening piece in 2016 about online dating, finding:

 

  1. It had lost much of its stigma, and a majority of Americans now say online dating is a good way to meet people.
  2. It’s not just for kids. While use jumped among adults under 25, it also increased among those in their late 50s and early 60s.
  3. One-third of people who used online dating have never actually gone on a date with someone they met on these sites. 
  4. Despite growing use of online tools, the vast majority of marriages and committed relationships begin offline.

 

Growth of these services is impressive. Match.com has more than 7 million paid subscribers (more than doubled from 2014), and Tinder now boasts over 1.6 billion swipes per day. One unfortunate byproduct of this growth is that those who use such apps may suffer from lower self-esteem, particularly as they feel depersonalized or disposable in these interactions. 

 

The healthcare industry should take notice.

 

Healthcare continues to strive to be more consumer-friendly, particularly as patient satisfaction becomes an increasingly important metric. Beyond value-based payments tied to satisfaction, customer experience is a key factor in preserving patient loyalty. Of course, there is a lot of ground to make up. As with so many other areas, healthcare has lagged other industries in the some of the most basic customer service areas.  Arcane schedule and billing, lack of basic online information, interminable and unpredictable waits, inconvenient hours and other barriers to access, and countless other factors frustrate and annoy. 

 

Consequently, many organizations have turned to other industries for best practices.  Led by newly appointed Chief Experience Officers, they have adopted restaurant-style self-scheduling, “boarding pass” check-ins, hotel-inspired apps, and consumer star ratings of providers.

 

One of the fastest growing areas is the use of telehealth services to allow patients instantaneous access to a provider to have questions addressed, prescribe treatment, or refer to another setting. Barriers to access are eliminated, and individuals can get the right level of treatment for whatever ails them, day or night.

 

Typically, users can scroll through screens of available providers, finding someone who suits their needs. Looking for a female behavioral health counselor who speaks Spanish? No problem. How about a pediatric orthopedist with extra training in sports medicine? Sure. Swipe left or swipe right until you find the right match. Want to see someone in person? Jump in the car and stop by the closest urgent care center or pharmacy clinic. 

 

Responding to consumer’s desires has provided them with a much higher level of service and convenience. Rather than struggle to get and appointment and then stew in a waiting room for hours, people can get in front of a provider, virtually or otherwise, within moments. However, a downside to this is that interactions between patients and providers are becoming increasingly transactional.

 

Why is this a problem? The online dating findings raise some important warnings.  Consumers may feel that there is no connection to their provider outside of that moment. No relationship is formed, no accountability established. Furthermore, as with people who never actually go out on in-person dates after meeting others online, patients who truly need additional in-person follow-up may feel they have done enough by consulting someone virtually. While these concerns may not have grave consequences when dealing with minor health issues, as severity increases, so does the risk. Should a more serious condition arise, the absence of a trusting relationship between patient and provider could imperil the outcome.

 

This is not to say, of course, that providing consumers with convenient care is bad.  Quite the contrary. However, avoiding some of these unintended consequences requires a thoughtful approach.

 

  1. Holistic view – Services must be understood as part of a comprehensive approach to care.
  2. Seamless, consistent experience – The user experience must underscore the connection to the provider. From a unified login and transfer of data to the logos and layout, consumer services need to appear connected.
  3. Guide people to appropriate level of care – If a minor condition turns out to be more serious, transferring care to a higher level should be simple and efficient. The fastest way to frustrate someone is to say, “We can’t treat that. You’ll need to go somewhere else.” Conversely, as conditions warrant, allowing people to utilize more convenient care as they improve can bolster engagement.
  4. Use every opportunity to strengthen relationships – No matter what the setting, every interaction is a chance to build a stronger relationship between the organization and the individual. When developing programs, continually ask whether they bolster or erode that bond.

 

“Have I told you lately that I love you?”

 

Harry.Greenspun@kornferry.com


@harrygreenspun

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