Personalising digital health care

By Ian Manovel
Tuesday, 20 February, 2018

Personalising digital health care

When it comes to digital health care, one size doesn’t fit all. We look at the benefits of personalising services to cater for different attitudes — and aptitudes.

The 2017 Federal Budget revealed $10 billion would be dedicated to health spending. As the Australian healthcare system moves to implement digital services such as Telehealth, eMedical Records, eMedication Management and eHealth Records, the industry needs to reconsider its one-size-fits-all approach.

While this legacy model is attractive for its simplicity, it generates a degree of waste and inefficiency, with some patients over-serviced, some neglected and a few dissatisfied. The health system needs to ensure that existing digital health technologies are effectively implemented, used by healthcare professionals and delivering patient benefits. By harnessing the power of digital, the healthcare system can evolve to innovate, improve data sharing and secure organisational trust. Digital will play a crucial role in creating a person-centric segmentation of patients, allowing policymakers and service providers to optimise resources and deliver the right services, at the right time, in the right way.

Personalising health care

Using the insights from its Person-Centric: Reimagining Australian Digital Healthcare report, Accenture surveyed 2000 Australians to identify seven clusters of people, differentiated by their attitudes and aptitudes around technology, privacy and organisational trust. Highlighting the complexity of the distribution of Australian attitudes to the healthcare system, Accenture created a unique persona to represent each cluster:

Busy Lizzy — Full-time workers who are open to change and technology. These individuals are reluctant to share data and most of their treatment and service choices are driven by financial costs.

Ok Joe — Young to middle-aged males who are socially conservative and don’t support healthcare change. They’re disengaged over privacy issues and have little interest in consumer-directed health care.

Fit Fu — Progressive, healthy male seniors who are highly confident with technology and open to change. They’re alert to privacy issues but relatively relaxed about sharing information.

Struggling Sam — Sitting within an older age group, they’re traditionalists: less open to technology, concerned about privacy and reluctant to share information. Their financial concerns drive many of their choices.

Hip Pip — Young females who are busy, healthy and quick to try new things. They’re relaxed about data sharing, have a strong desire for more consumer-directed care and are financially constrained.

Wary Mary — Are very anxious about privacy, therefore reluctant to share information. They’re confident with technology and open to change but not positive about technological substitutes.

Vintage Viv — Most don’t like technology, self-service or anything new yet are relaxed about data sharing and privacy.

Matching health care to personalities

Adopting a person-centric approach grants a clearer insight into patient behaviours and attitudes. The report identified varying levels of acceptance to new technology and online services among clusters irrespective of age: Fit Fu — with an average age of 59 was extremely confident with new technology, compared to Vintage Viv, average age of 58, who scored as the least confident. It is essential that healthcare providers employ a service design approach that incorporates the service user experience combined with more sophisticated data analytics to determine which groups are likely to adopt new digital services and who should be given the most support as digital solutions with superior patient outcomes are made available to consumers.

The rise of digital health presents an opportunity for the health ecosystem to address patient concerns around privacy and security and to gain trust in secure data sharing. The outlook on Australians’ attitudes to data sharing is positive: 89% are confident their GPs will keep their data secure and protected from unauthorised access. Some personas still show reluctance to share data: only 30% of Wary Mary’s group would be willing to share their full medical records with a treating clinician, compared with 90% in Sam, Viv, Pip and Fu’s groups.

Gaining patient trust

A person-centric approach allows a greater understanding of patient attitudes which the health ecosystem can address. The Accenture report suggests a major overhaul to data policy and legislation is required to ensure patient trust, including a new ‘comprehensive right’ that gives patients more control over their data. We need to give consumers the tools they need to easily change their minds — to ‘un-share’ and ‘re-hide’ their information. At the centre of health care is trust, which must be maintained throughout digital change. The principal risk of losing trust is that patients could start being less truthful, resulting in worse health outcomes.

While the health sector is very good at generating and storing data, as a next step the system must support the linking and sharing of information between health professionals. Patient data could be used to improve health outcomes and system efficiency. Less fragmented and federated communication of health information would have a major positive impact on re-admission rates, hospital-acquired complications and avoidable medical harm. These improvements have already been seen in leading Australian digital hospitals. Many aspects of the future of health care — from self-monitoring devices to increased preventative healthcare models — will depend on smarter use of data.

Challenging one size fits all

In the face of digital change, the current challenge is to redesign services and policies for the future needs of all Australians, moving away from wasteful, inflexible, one-size services to create closer engagements between patients and health professionals. By taking a targeted, person-segmented approach to digital adoption, the health ecosystem can develop better strategies to engage patients and providers alike, resulting in better patient outcomes and a better system of care for all Australians.

Ian Manovel is the Innovation Principal Director for Government & Health at Accenture Australia.

Image credits: ©Accenture Australia

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