A few months ago, I came down with the flu. I couldn’t get out of bed from fever, pain, nausea, and exhaustion. Over the phone, a nurse confirmed that I probably did have the flu but I physically could not get into the office to see my primary care physician or get a prescription. No other options for care were available to me at the time so I cared for myself as I recovered over the next week.
My experience illustrates a typical primary healthcare delivery scenario. But every industry leader I work with acknowledges that, in the future, more healthcare will be delivered outside of physician offices than within them. Primary care, in particular, is ripe for disruption and is going to be upended by digital innovators in the coming years. The change is already happening and new startups offer a glimpse into what customer-focused, digital-first primary care will look like.
Geography will not be a deciding factor for choosing a primary care physician
Many, if not most, primary care visits don’t need to be face-to-face anymore. Even in situations where patients are managing chronic conditions, the combination of connected devices and electronic health records can often deliver the data and information that physicians need. And if physicians and patients embrace preventative care and wellness, primary care shifts toward promoting a healthy lifestyle and away from the doctor’s office.
Consumers will seek providers based on approach, interests, and rapport
With easy access to more and better provider information, prospective patients will search for primary care providers based on personal fit and individual needs. For example, customers of the wellness startup SteadyMD can choose a doctor who will weigh in on their CrossFit workout routines or one who understands the unique topics that arise within the LGBQT community.
Healthcare providers will leverage the technologies that consumers are using daily
Consumers will engage with their healthcare providers via text, voice, and video chat more and more. According to Pew Research Center, more than 90% of American smartphone owners use one of these mobile communication methods on a weekly basis (if not hourly). Many doctors have embraced mobile technologies in their practices for years, and advancements in web services are making it easier to share and access health data from connected devices and health tracking applications.
Today, there are a variety of telehealth services that enable consumers to access physicians via digital devices to get treatment for minor illnesses. In the future, deeper primary care relationships between providers and patients will be forged and powered using these digital innovations.