Industry Voices—Leaning in to renewed interest: How COVID-19 is clearing a path for rapid improvements to consumer health experience

A person talks to their doctor on their phone with a laptop in the background
The COVID-19 pandemic is opening the door to tech-focused innovation around customer experience. (Getty/airdone)

There’s nothing quite like the threat of a dangerous new virus to encourage people to start taking their health more seriously.

COVID-19 has highlighted tremendous challenges in healthcare. It has shined a light on gaps in our ecosystem, especially the delivery of care and health equity. It has been promising to see entrepreneurial solutions, including those from big tech like Amazon and Apple, emerging to fill those gaps and contribute to a better future focused on value and improved health outcomes.

While some may see the proliferation of healthcare tech as simply a response to increasing demand, on a more fundamental level, it’s a calling out to the healthcare ecosystem on how unwieldy the need is to better understand our health.

What Amazon and Apple know is how to support the consumer. As they enter the healthcare space, they are addressing one of the most vexing challenges of the current system—that it’s not nearly as intuitive or easy to navigate as it can or should be.

As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, the attention of health leaders is fragmented, and the focus on patient-centricity can get lost. One example of this today is that our system continually expects people to come to us: showing up at a clinic, picking up a prescription or logging into an insurance portal. The enhancement of telemedicine, pharmacy delivery and other similar services has pushed the envelope, though much of this has been driven as a response to the pandemic rather than an intentional focus on the patient journey.

Technology companies are challenging the healthcare industry to make the consumer experience better. They understand the customer journey, including how to simplify it, and are pushing to question the way things have been done. It’s only logical they would want to address one of the more pervasive issues for society—our health.

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This challenge is timely and welcome. Many providers and insurers have been working on improving the patient and member experience for years, yet more can be done. External partners in tech will elevate these efforts to drive much-needed engagement and adoption in the delivery of care.

However, this is only part of the solution. Beyond “front-end” consumer engagement, there is a need for “back-end” integrations to bring together healthcare professionals and the people we serve. For instance, patient-generated health data collection standardization and integration into the broader healthcare ecosystem. Incorporating analysis and feedback cycles will undoubtedly drive health outcomes, and aligning this with the knowledge, expertise and insight of medical professionals across specialties will support the detection and prevention of complex or chronic conditions.

The challenge becomes: How do we bridge the user experience with healthcare delivery in a way that complies with data and privacy regulations and maintains consumer trust? Tech companies are still early on that journey.

Despite the anticipated hurdles of interoperability, privacy and adoption, there is too much potential benefit here to ignore. We must continue investing time, research and capital into the already growing ecosystem of companies helping collect, analyze and act on available data.

This innovation will help minimize the impact of health challenges and empower consumers to manage their own health on their terms—not ours—so that all people may lead the best, healthiest and longest lives possible.

Doba Parushev is the director of venture capital at Healthworx.