What is innovation in health care?

By Mark Kandrysawtz, Vice President and Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer, WellSpan Health

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This editorial is part of Transforming Health’s Expert Voices, where health care professionals discuss issues facing our community. All information is based on the expert’s experience and is not meant to replace professional medical advice or treatment plans. We encourage you to contact a qualified health care professional to discuss your individual health concerns.
Mark Kandrysawtz is vice president and chief innovation and marketing officer at WellSpan Health.

Mark Kandrysawtz is vice president and chief innovation and marketing officer at WellSpan Health.

Innovation in health care is the constant pursuit of making the experience of consuming, delivering, and managing health care better. It is accomplished through “what if” thinking and studying human experiences to imagine what health care could be, not just what we expect it to be today.

Health care is always moving forward with medical advancements occurring all the time, but there is a growing list of industry challenges that make now a critical time to transform, not just improve this vital service.

For example:

  • There is a shrinking supply of primary care providers, with just 8 percent of traditional medical school graduates choosing family medicine. This is happening as retirement looms for a quarter of the primary care workforce, studies show.
  • One in four adults in the U.S. do not have a primary care provider.
  • A global pandemic has dramatically changed the way we lead our day-to-day lives.
  • Consumers increasingly favor a digital-first experience.

Of course, the most significant driver of recent changes in health care has been the pandemic. Repeated surges of COVID-19 led many in our families to work or attend school from home as well as obtain necessary services and goods, like health care and groceries, from home.

All these factors allow healthcare providers to re-examine the primary care model, one that has largely remained unchanged for decades. Instead of patients coming to see a physician in an office to receive care for acute and chronic conditions, a shift has begun in providing those services digitally to patients in a convenient, efficient way that actually can improve their health.

Patients are ready for these changes.

In 2019, just 11 percent said they were likely to use telehealth, according to a national study. Today, 76 percent are likely to do so. One patient said that a video visit is, “Much more efficient than taking off work, getting ready, driving to the office, signing in, waiting, and having a physical. I greatly prefer the video calls.”

So, what’s next?

Digital platforms were created out of necessity during the pandemic, but now it is time to advance those platforms by creating more impactful, personalized, and easier-to-use digital health options. The individualized approach is important because when you design something for everyone, it feels like it is for no one.

In primary care, it is the right time for a digital practice that allows patients to create connections with a care team available via 24/7 via video visits. Imagine a lunchtime visit at work or an evening visit after the kids are in bed.

A digital practice also can offer remote monitoring through connected devices such as scales and blood pressure monitors. More frequent, routine reviews allow a care team to be a hands-on partner and quickly address changes in chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure. Conditions like depression or anxiety also are better managed with more frequent contact and management.

Of course, providers also can see patients in person, refer to specialists when needed, or connect patients to additional wellness services, such as a personal trainer or dietitian.

Digital transformation is here, now is the time to make it better.

Mark Kandrysawtz is vice president and chief innovation and marketing officer at WellSpan Health.