Industry Voices—What the Super Bowl taught me about balancing in-person care with digital tools

Super Bowl LII
What do the Super Bowl and healthcare have in common? They're both trying to balance an in-person experience with at-home viewership. (Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)

At first glance, the Super Bowl appears to have little to do with healthcare. But as a healthcare professional married to a sports executive, attending the occasional high-profile sporting event invites this type of comparison.

For the first few days of February, I descended on Minneapolis alongside football fans and industry executives. Team, league and media professionals worked long hours leading up to the big game to bring insights and their in-person perspectives to audiences across the globe.

For those in Minneapolis, parties, events, and other experiences were in abundance. From invitation-only events for industry insiders to expensive parties and concerts for the affluent to open-access activities for the public, the pregame experience in Minneapolis was not the same for everyone. When it came to the big game, countless alternatives for those who weren’t in person at the Super Bowl were offered across different media, including TV, online and radio.

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Healthcare, much like the sports world, is evolving to meet the needs of its consumers with new and different experiences. Healthcare providers, similar to sports innovators at the Super Bowl, have created VIP experiences through concierge medicine and other high-end options. As in sports, digital and electronic interventions are increasingly available in healthcare.

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With virtual reality and other exciting emerging technologies, many in healthcare, as in the sports industry, believe the at-home and digital experience is becoming superior to the in-person experience. Venture capital investment in digital health reached an all-time high in 2017. These technologies are critical to expanding access and meeting the needs and expectations of consumers and patients.

Technology is enabling more and more ways to receive care and be fans. That said, there's nothing that can replace the in-person experience in healthcare and at events like the Super Bowl. There's something unique about in-person interactions that can't be replaced by technology, even as new in-home and digital experiences become preferred by many.

In sports, you won't hear someone say that they went to the Super Bowl if they watched it at home. They recognize it’s a fundamentally different experience cheering at home versus in the stadium. Similarly, our goal in healthcare shouldn't be to replace in-person interventions with telemedicine or other digital options. As in sports, we should view these technologies as alternatives to the in-person experience, not as replacements.

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In our work at Benevera Health, we understand that patient preferences vary. We also know that in-person engagement cannot be fully replicated. Our approach to care focuses on the whole person, which allows us to meet patients in person when necessary or preferred, and to leverage technology when more appropriate. Our locally based teams meet with patients in their homes, doctor’s office, or wherever convenient, and understand the needs and resources of their communities. We serve as a single point of contact for patients supporting a broad set of needs including insurance education, providing transportation, scheduling appointments, helping access community resources and supporting management of clinical conditions.

We have found that our local, in-person connection and whole-person approach leads to improved engagement and trust, both critical to building meaningful relationships. It’s only with trust that we can best leverage digital tools and technology to maintain and foster those relationships and drive change and improvements in health. With patients giving us a greater than 95% patient satisfaction rate and a 75% Net Promoter score, our flexible approach is proving to be a winning combination.

Corbin Petro is president and CEO of Benevera Health, a technology-enabled health services organization created out of a partnership between Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and four hospital systems, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock.