Jorge Luis Camargo
Expert Contributor

The Anywhere Clinic: Easy, Fast, Digital Healthcare

By Jorge Camargo | Thu, 06/24/2021 - 12:58

The world has changed a lot in the last decade. Thanks to mobile phones and technology, everything is within reach of your fingertips.

You want a cab, you got it.

You want your favorite Pad Thai delivered in the next 20 minutes? Done.

You want the newest Nike shoes by tomorrow? You got them.

It’s as easy as opening an app, making a few gestures, and you get what you wish for. Almost zero friction.

This type of “accessibility” is the new norm and standard for consumers. Easy. Fast. Anytime access.

Try opening an e-commerce store where delivery is more than two weeks or a checkout process is more than three steps and you’ll see customers fleeing to Amazon for next-day delivery.

The competition for “convenience” is brutal. Pandora’s box is open and there’s no going back. 

But, somehow, healthcare has been slower to adopt these new behaviors. It's still very common to have to call during office hours, which means during your work hours, to book an appointment with your doctor weeks in advance.

But, as I said, Pandora’s box is open and there’s no going back. In the last couple of years, new “digital-first” medical practices like Forward Health, Carbon Health, and One Medical have popped up in the market offering this type of convenience to patients: book online at any time, talk async with a doctor via chat, pay online, have all your clinical information in a mobile app. And they’re growing fast. Over the last year, Carbon Health increased its clinic footprint from seven to 27 clinics across six states and introduced virtual care to 16 states.

Total digital health industry funding worldwide from 2010 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)

This type of convenience for patients is the future of healthcare; it’s the way the world works now. Once you get a taste as a customer – a patient – of this experience, you never want to go back. The same way you never again wanted to have to hail a taxi cab after ordering your first Uber ride.

Still, even with all this growth, these new digital-first clinics represent a niche in the current market. The same way Amazon did at the beginning when it was just “an online bookstore.”

Eventually, this will be the norm in healthcare. And all healthcare providers that don’t offer this customer experience will struggle to attract and retain patients.

Traditional clinics and hospitals will have to choose: transform and adopt these new practices, or wait out the storm and hope for the best. But we all know what happened to Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble. 

There’s still hope, and time, for traditional healthcare providers to catch up with the “digital-first” newcomers. And it comes from studying what has happened in the e-commerce industry in the last couple of years.

At some point, it looked like any traditional business wasn’t going to stand a chance to compete with Amazon. But then came Shopify. A digital platform that gives small businesses, and fortune 500 brands like Kraft Heinz Co., a path toward offering their customers the same type of “magical” experience Amazon offers. They’re “arming the rebels” against Amazon.

So, who’s going to arm the rebels against digital-first clinics with hundreds of developers on their payroll?

Businesses like Nimbo, Nexhealth, and Patient Pop are building precisely these platforms. Turn-key solutions that help clinics transition from analog to digital. Easy to use products that help healthcare providers start their “digital medical practice” and offer the same type of customer experience the new players are offering, without having to build a team of hundreds of developers and raise millions of dollars of venture capital.

Going digital has a whole other set of advantages on top of providing patients a better experience. It also gives healthcare providers an opportunity to expand their patient base outside their geographic area with the tightly integrated use of telemedicine and online payments.

Like most things in life though, not everything has to be white or black, and I don’t see “full digital care” replacing traditional face-to-face appointments 100 percent. Similar to what happened in retail and e-commerce, a hybrid will emerge. The best of both worlds. You go in to see your doctor maybe once a year but stay in touch with her and their care coordination team throughout the year with the use of chat and video appointments.

If you’re a healthcare professional, I invite you to start thinking “digital-first.” The sooner you start on this journey the easier it will be in the long term for both you and your patients.

Photo by:   Jorge Luis Camargo