With government, practitioners, insurers, regulators, manufacturers, and patients all making demands on our healthcare system, the push for innovation is relentless. In other industries, including retail and media, disruptive change over the past decade has been transformative. However, in healthcare, the pace of change has been slowed, with downward pressure applied by practitioner risk aversion and historical caution, regulatory protection, fragmentation of the specialist landscape, litigation risk, privacy concerns, and implementation challenges.

While clinical innovation has progressed consistently, the experience of being a patient is largely unchanged for over 100 years – physical presentation to a doctor in their rooms, waiting for appointments, paper referrals and scripts, time in hospital wards. The paradox of the healthcare system is that while its purpose is to care for and improve health outcomes for patients, it’s engineered for the operation and convenience of industry.

Practitioners’ incomes are largely unaffected. Due to inelastic demand for medical care, it is the patient, and their caregivers, who are most impacted by the need to intermediate between technologies and processes firmly rooted in past centuries. While advances in medicine have leapt ahead in terms of surgical and diagnostic technique, administrative processes have not.

Due to inelastic demand for medical care, it is the patient, and their caregivers, who are most impacted by the need to intermediate between technologies and processes firmly rooted in past centuries.

Printed materials, physical letters of referral, hand-written notes, pagers, and facsimile are still the primary means of capturing, transporting, and storing information. With increasing specialisation, and increasing levels of administration required within the system, without adequate harnessing of technological efficiency, there is a disconnect between what patients experience when facing their healthcare professional in a clinical setting, and the full experience of being a person, within the context of their whole life.

In 2019, we worked with Design Tobias, an agency that specialises in human centred design, with extensive experience in uncovering opportunities in healthcare. Tobias help organisations create strategies, products and services that drive value and positive change for consumers, as well as business owners, leaders, and shareholders. Their work is primarily focused on human experiences, beyond clinical interactions and health outcomes. Their findings include a need for clinicians, and all involved in the broader healthcare ecosystem, to reduce the burden for patients, especially those with chronic, debilitating, or life limiting conditions.

The burden on patients

A patient’s ability to participate in their treatment will experience peaks and troughs, from the effects of illness, medication, unique factors in their lives, and the burdens the healthcare system places on them. Although healthcare professionals do their best, particularly at point of care, to ease these burdens, processes and interactions may be less supportive.

Tobias research reduced patient factors to physical, cognitive, and emotional dimensions.

  • Physical – strength may be weakened, stamina stressed, coordination hampered, and sensory perception heightened, making simple tasks such as getting out of a chair, waiting in consulting rooms, or coordinating fine motor skills to write, seem daunting
  • Cognitive – with lower attention, difficulty processing, and memory impacted, patients may be challenged when interpreting jargon, recalling information, working through complex issues, or making informed decisions
  • Emotional – volatility and anxiety impact stability, where small challenges or setbacks may evoke intense feelings.

Underpinning these factors, is financial burden. Even supported by health systems and private insurers, there are significant out-of-pocket expenses that consumers must meet, as well as meet the financial needs of other elements of their lives – often when they’re least able.

The burdens - to remember, repeat, and share information, have their lives disrupted, wait for, and find appropriate care, carry, and comprehend information, and afford their care – almost always rest on patients, and their caregivers. While specialists focus on treatment, the burdens of stitching together care plans, holding and relaying information, and compressing lives into the model of care, sit firmly with patients.

What do patients want?

As it pertains to their health, Tobias research found that patients want to feel or be:
•    In control - an active participant who is educated and involved in their own treatment, alongside their doctor and/or caregivers
•    Protected – shielded from excessive sensory stimulus, calmed during stressful times, and reassured
•    Supported – taxing tasks are eradicated, mitigated or automated, while repetition is avoided (e.g. reciting a medical history, repeating procedures with different physicians or care teams)
•    Respected – their views, beliefs, background and independent research is acknowledged and supplemented by their doctor.

As the healthcare model evolves, the dimensions of health expand to encompass wellness, instead of focusing primarily on illness, with patients becoming more interested in their care, actively seeking involvement with specialist teams. There is a growing cultural understanding of the interconnectedness, not only of different dimensions of wellness, but also of physical manifestations. These dimensions include emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical, intellectual, and environmental. As technology accelerates into our lives, people are in a great position to augment their experience of being a patient with monitoring, tracking, and storage tools. Our challenge is wisdom, underpinned by information; there is a vast quantity of data which requires organisation; patients need to receive information in a way that compels action and necessary change. Removing noise and determining the signal will be key as our system evolves. Of all the ways a healthcare business can enhance goodwill and healthcare outcomes, delivering a better, more connected and cohesive patient experience is completely within possibility. A healthcare service provider who embraces a better way to serve patients will become a preferred provider of care, with attendant improved financial outlook and growth prospects.

Of all the ways a healthcare business can enhance goodwill and healthcare outcomes, delivering a better, more connected and cohesive patient experience is completely within possibility.

For medical business owners, if the focus shifts from clinical outcomes alone, to working with patients more actively and personally, in a scalable and repeatable way, the benefits are likely to be better from the perspective of employee and patient experience, innovative models of care, as well as financial result.

Read more, in our Perspective on Health here.

What next?

Macquarie’s healthcare banking specialists can help you meet your goals.

It can be challenging to run a business. If you’re considering what next, talk with us about your goals. We can help you grow, change, capture opportunities, and realise your value, aligned with your business owner objectives.  We are passionate about creating deep relationships with clients where we share industry insights and introduce valuable networks. The power of combining these factors means we help business owners make strategic decisions that directly impact business value.

The Macquarie Healthcare team is here to help. To learn more, contact your Macquarie Relationship Manager, call 1800 442 370, or visit www.macquarie.com/health.

Additional information

This information is issued by Macquarie Business Banking, a division of Macquarie Bank ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502. It doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs, nor is it intended as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service – please consider whether it’s right for you