Increased globalization and technological change are leading the global healthcare industry away from the old physician-based system to one in which the customer is at the center. Customer service has become central to all businesses, and healthcare is no exception. Patients can’t choose whether to get sick but they do generally have control over which doctors they see and which hospitals they trust. Healthcare providers must cater to the empowered customer in order to remain competitive.

There are six major transitions which the healthcare industry is facing:

From one size fits all to individualized

Instead of sweeping rules, healthcare will start to look at the individual and provide him with a plan which fits his circumstances. Screening for diseases will be stratified, instead of across-the-board for certain ages or ethnicities. Each patient will get a course of treatment based on his unique issues, regardless of generalities and rules.

From institution-centered to de-physicalized

Medical care will no longer be available only by visiting a health clinic or hospital. A patient will be able to receive at least part of his care from the privacy of his own home. Consultations via smartphone and tablets will replace the physical visit in many cases. Prescriptions will be written and renewed electronically as well.

From physician-centered to disintermediated

Physicians will no longer be the sole decision-makers, so they will not hold all the power in their hands. Other medical personnel such as nurses and physical therapists will collaborate with the physician to find the best possible solution for each patient.

From paternalistic to empowered

Choices will no longer be dictated to the patient by his physician. Instead, the physician will assist the patient in making a decision about his health by laying out the alternatives and the possible outcomes of each option. Ultimately, the decision will rest in the hands of the patient. An “empowered customer” will take ownership over his health and consequently be more likely to follow the instructions of his physician.

From reactive to proactive

Healthcare will focus more on preventing diseases, instead of treating only symptoms. Laboratory testing, autonomic testing and genetic testing will all be used to catch diseases long before they manifest themselves in the body.

From volume-based to value-based

The current system for paying for healthcare is one where the patient pays per visit, per test etc. In the future, patients will pay for value instead, in the same way they pay for other services. The goal of this payment system is to encourage physicians to provide the best possible outcomes for their patients.

Patient empowerment is a process and it will likely take several years until all these changes are implemented. The healthcare system may be resistant to change, especially where limited resources must be stretched to accommodate empowerment. However, more empowered patients are healthier and will stay in the workforce and in society for longer, so patient empowerment is a positive goal for society at large.

Some of the transitions will be discussed at the Forum de l'industrie de la santé de Québec in next December (link Looking forward to meet you there!

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.