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We seek tax advice from accounta ...

Posted Oct 30 2008 3:25pm

We seek tax advice from accountants. We seek financial advice from financial planners. We seek health care advice from…well, doctors.

At least that’s the way it should be. But an overburdened system with underfunding in important high-advice areas like primary care, combined with misplaced financial incentives, make a physician’s time an especially scarce resource.

This usually means short visits with a provider for patients who are passive during appointments.

The internet, of course, is changing all of this through the emergence of Health 2.0.

We now can complete our tax returns online. We can invest using online services. Health care, however, has been slower to adapt. It still lacks the “ killer-app ” to make the internet truly industry altering.

The complexities of health care delivery are the reason for this slow adaptation—which is good. It allows for the opportunity to do it right, something especially important in this industry.

There are vasts amounts of information available on everything medicine. But it can be daunting for a patient not familiar with the intricacies of the industry. That should be okay, because a patient can search for information, collect and gather, and show up to an appointment armed with questions for a physician.

The breakdown in this Xanadu comes at the appointment. Physicians just don’t have the time to spend 30+ minutes with each patient. Fifteen minutes is pushing it.

But patients want to be informed. Read this post at Health Management Rx for an enlightening example.  Jen has written about the “middle eighty,” the constituency of patients in the middle.  The theory, adapted from sales, goes something like this: ten percent of patients are super-involved in their health care, ten percent of patients are completely passive, and the middle eighty percent is awaiting online tools to help them become more involved, but only after those tools have proved their value.

Targeting the “middle eighty” is where health care online will transform the industry.

The Associated Press wrote last week about a new service cropping up in health care to serve the “middle eighty,” albeit primarily offline.

In the vein of tax and financial advisory, health care advisers are beginning to solve patients’ health care headaches like finding a doctor and negotiating payment.  Organizations have been the primary purchasers of services thus far, mostly in an attempt to lower their health care coverage burden.

The recent trends in health care, including reduced employer support of health insurance and Medicare complexities, have forced the burden of managing health upon the “middle eighty.”  They’re being forced to become proactive in their health decisions.  And they’re looking for help.

The current service offering by these health care advisers is just a start. Once this industry moves to the online world with all that it has to offer–content, community, commerce and advisory to help a patient make sense of it all (coherence)–will it truly be industry altering.  Jen et al. call it Health 4.0. I call it health care transformed.

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