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Can Google Maps Save Healthcare?

By Russell Benaroya

I don’t really remember what life was like before Google Maps or Waze.  My relationship with my wife certainly has improved. Even in the city that I live (Seattle), I always use Google Maps because hey, maybe there is some traffic I can avoid. So as I was winding my way through the all too familiar maze of traffic last Friday, I thought, “How awesome would it be take the power of Google Maps and apply it to consumer driven healthcare?”

What I love about these traffic apps is that they satisfy my innermost anxieties by:
  1. Letting me know how long it will take to reach my destination.
  2. Providing turn by turn notification soon enough before I pass the intended turn.
  3. Delivering visual cues to see why my route is the fastest (“Those suckers”).
  4. Reinforcing that I’m on the fastest route (“Makes me feel smart”).
  5. Rerouting me if I make a wrong turn (“Lots of ways to get to a destination”).
  6. Showing me where others might have run into problems (“I’m so glad that guy flagged the roadkill!”)
  7. Rewarding me (intrinsically) when I nail the destination time to the minute! (“Woohoo”)

Healthcare is like the city street map to an out of town visitor before Google Maps came along to help make sense of it. Sure, there are streets and signs and landmarks and coordinates on a map just like in healthcare there are health insurance plans, doctors, specialists, hospitals, bills, benefits, deductibles, copays, premiums (should I stop with this list now)…..and on and on.  But what if….what if…..I had a Google Map that knew my starting point and my destination and helped me get there step by step?

Am I talking digital healthcare nirvana? No. Like I said in my last post (See“Technology is Not the Problem in Consumer Healthcare”) the technology is available to make this happen…today! Is the problem a lack of evidenced based understanding of how to give someone turn by turn directions? Nope. Is the problem that we don’t know the destination? Nope. So what is the problem? The problem is that it’s structurally really hard to bring these pieces into a central place to serve the consumer. But let’s try and get a V1 launched here why don’t we? Here is how a health insurance plan can do it.

Step 1: Know the Starting Point:  Health insurance plans know my demographic and benefit plan information and are increasingly building a richer profile of who I am, using predictive data. They also may have my medical claims history, and heck, if it’s worth it I might share some information to make sure the starting point is accurate.   

Step 2: Define the Destination: Now this gets a little tricky but let’s take it from a medical standpoint for a second. When it comes to chronic condition management the destination is a set of metrics that signal a condition is being well managed. It could also be keeping someone on a path of health through recommended screenings, physician visits and immunizations.

Step 3: Create a Turn by Turn Map:  Our work with Tandem is to break down the desired health goals into turn by turn health actions that individuals can take to get to their destination. It’s also the work that companies like Accolade are doing by making Health Assistants available for live person navigation. Building these roadmaps takes thought but they are essential to creating all the various mappings to help each person get to the right place proactively. The system must be smart enough to know that a turn has been made which is why data integrations to verify completion of an action is so important.

Step 4: Reward the Accomplishment: When individuals arrive at their destination, let them know how awesome they are. Reinforce the positive feedback.  Reward them. Encourage them to do it more often.  Show me other people that have achieved the same success. Let me know that I’m not alone. If health plans really want to build a new member relationship (outside of processing claims) this is 100% the way to do it!

Step 5: Store the Information for Future Drivers: While we may all have slightly different starting points and destinations, roads are well traveled for a reason because they cater to a vast majority of the population. Health plans would benefit from storing the data on how someone managed to get to their destination to know how/if to apply that same agenda to another person with a similar goal in mind. Today’s technology is available to do it but the data rarely gets accessed.

Can we do this? You bet! My life is better today because of Google Maps. Sounds kind of silly but it is. What is really exciting, however, is how much better my life could be, and the life of millions of others, if we applied these same learnings to consumer driven healthcare.  Drive on!

Posted on October 17, 2016 07:37 PM