Healthcare, and particularly medicine, are slow-moving beasts. This doesn’t mean that innovation isn’t happening. In fact, it’s happening at an alarming speed and doctors are grappling with a quickly expanding knowledge base.
But the highly regulated, traditional industry is vulnerable to external disruption, and we’re seeing more and more examples:
- DIY tests like skin cancer apps and pap smears
- Online script services
- Skin checks at the pharmacy
- Vaccination services outside medical practices
- Medical tourism
The flip side of convenience
Disruption is not necessarily the same as innovation. Disruptive services or products are simpler and more convenient to use, but their quality is often poorer.
In healthcare, the risk of disruption is that it affects health outcomes. It may lead to fragmentation and loss of opportunistic screening. I’ll give two examples:
Example 1: More providers does not equal better care
A busy family doesn’t have the time to visit the doctor and decides to use convenient online health services. As a result they hardly ever visit their family doctor, and if they do, their doctor does not have the complete picture as more health providers are involved in the care.
Example 2: Convenience does not equal safety
Women doing their own pap smears at home may take incorrect samples. Although avoiding the ‘stirrups’ in the doctor’s office is a big plus, the risk of avoiding an expert examination is that things get missed.
The way forward
Disruption in healthcare is happening, whether we like it or not. “Successful entrepreneurs naturally look at opportunities in terms of the jobs they can do for customers,” say the authors of this article. Although it is unlikely that the doctor can be replaced by technology, certain aspects of the healthcare process can.
I believe there are 3 ways the healthcare industry should respond to external disruption:
- Continue to listen to health consumers
- Develop our own disruption processes
- Communicate the strengths and qualities of our services
Marcus Tan, GP and CEO of HealthEngine said in Australian Doctor magazine: “GPs are ideally suited to lead this cultural shift. GPs are highly skilled in managing risk and uncertainty, and are well equipped to make the leaps required to innovate.”
Indeed, if we don’t do it ourselves, others will.