Patient Engagement

DHW Q&A: Humanizing Healthcare With Accenture


With Darryl Gibbings-Isaac, MD
Accenture, Senior Manager – Strategy

Consumer expectations are rising for healthcare experiences, and technology is playing a key role in meeting the demand for convenient and accessible care.

In this Digital Health Wire Q&A we sat down with Accenture’s Darryl Gibbings-Isaac, MD, to discuss the future of digital health and the importance of keeping patients at the center of the conversation.

The US healthcare system is under a lot of pressure from an aging population and a shortage of healthcare workers. What does it take to ease this burden and where does technology fit into the picture?

Technology has to play a role in augmenting what humans can do. Traditionally, healthcare has been a very human-centric system. Technology is going to be important in lowering the cost-to-serve, which will help increase access, by augmenting what clinicians can do. It will also help with healthcare worker burnout by offloading more tasks.

Technology’s relationship with humans is going to be the key thing. We’re talking about augmenting clinicians, not substituting clinicians. The conversation isn’t about doing more with less. 

We can also use technology to augment humans on the patient side. The question is about how we can enable patients to take care of themselves in situations where that’s appropriate. As an example we already see this with different symptom checkers, which help provide a guided, structured way to reach the best care.

What are some of the tools that you believe show the most promise in augmenting patients?

There are a lot of tools that take into account behavior change and behavioral science techniques to really go beyond the nudge and actually put a message in context of that patient and their daily lives. This enables a better response from that patient and allows them to manage their care in a better way. 

There’s also the data coming in. We’ve seen wearables on the consumer level where health information can be fed to patients outside of a clinical interaction and they can see if there’s something they need to do about it. As long as you pair the data with a simple and easy to understand action, that is cognizant of behavior change, you can have an effective result.

The other realm is virtual health, which enables more of the diagnosis to happen on the patient side. One way this happens is to empower patients with remote examination devices. The other way involves the “care anywhere” model and guiding patients through retail-based settings where they can get blood draws, or even imaging. Having more data generated on the patient side allows clinicians to make a decision fairly quickly when they actually see it.

Do you think we’re going to continue seeing a shift to remote care and a hospital-at-home setting?

We definitely believe that shift is going to happen for a number of reasons. The first is around experience. We’ve seen during the pandemic that experience matters and that convenience matters. We believe the tools that can bring care to where the patient is are going to be quite successful.

You also have to look at the model for centralized care, where you absolutely have to have specialized resources, and the hospital will still make sense. However, that’s the most expensive form of care in the way that it’s configured, and in a world where we need to reduce the cost of care to improve access and keep up with demand, we’ll almost have no choice but to configure other spaces to meet those same needs.

Accenture recently released a Patient Experience Survey where you found that two thirds of consumers have had a poor patient experience with a provider. How can providers improve the patient experience to meet rising expectations?

Consumers have liquid expectations from their other experiences outside of healthcare, and in order for providers to keep up with those, I think they have to understand a couple of things.

One is that experience matters, and we’re seeing that shift more and more. But it’s not just understanding that experience matters, it’s understanding which experiences matter, and asking “what are the moments that matter most to the patient.”

When we’re talking about providers, we’re not just talking about clinicians, but also the whole organization that’s managing the experience. It’s not a one-and-done situation, but something that needs continuous monitoring, so metrics are needed on the other side of it.

You have to measure consumer experience levels to have a foundation for improvement. If you recognize that the levels are going down, you need to understand why they’re going down to make adjustments.

What are Accenture’s current top priorities in the healthcare industry?

Improving the consumer experience is definitely one of them. We’re often using human-centered design to solve these problems, and placing the patient at the center of the solutions. We’re also looking at how you can unbundle care and the components around it to create a location agnostic care model. 

The first part of the equation is more design-centric, while the other side of the equation is more operation-centric. I think you need to be able to do both of these things, as a health system, to really be at the top level in today’s world.

What are the biggest challenges when focusing on human-centered design and changing healthcare?

There have been many different approaches to changing healthcare, each with varying degrees of success. We’ve seen entities come from outside of healthcare and try to disrupt it. Changing healthcare from the outside is a tall order.

Where we’ve seen this be most successful is with true partnerships that are not only inspired by the health system, but also instigated by it. Both sides have to want change before an outside partner can come in and reimagine how care is delivered.

We also need to keep putting the patient at the center of these conversations, and I’d go even further and say that we need to put humans at the center, because it’s not going to work just designing for the consumer. You have to design for everyone within the ecosystem.

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