Take the patient’s perspective when designing a new service model.
Or, using the current “buzz” phrase, you need to become “patient-centred”.
Some of the best innovations are brilliant in their after-the-fact simplicity.
Take the US-based Minute Clinic.
We all know “an ounce of prevention…” yet most of us still don’t go to the doctor for preventative care because of the cumbersome process of a office visit: scheduling an appointment, taking time off work, waiting in the doctor’s office for unknown amounts of time, sitting in the midst of other hacking/sneezing people, and being unsure how much the visit will cost. Worse, the doctor’s advice is often the standard nostrums of “take two aspirin, eat right, drink plenty of fluids, get some rest” that didn’t require the costs and hassles of the office visit.
Michael Howe, former CEO of Minute Clinic, became known as one of the top 10 innovators of the last decade by tackling those problems and designing a straightforward solution.
It was a formalised concept to what pharmacists were already partially providing in a less visible and patient-focussed manner – and doing it better.
However, he first obtained “sanction” by performing the clinical service in a pharmacy environment using nurses for delivery (differentiation).
Howe applied the retail concept to healthcare, putting a mini medical clinic inside a pharmacy. All the elements of his new service model focused on the patient:
- Pharmacy locations are easy to get to and are easily integrated into the customer’s day
- The clinics are open nights and weekends, expanding convenience for time-pressed customers
- Customer wait time is no more than 15 minutes, and no appointments are necessary.
- Minute Clinic posts all its services on a “menu” with the prices listed for each service.
All the above points embody simple retail principles.
The key behind Howe’s innovation is realising that the old model of healthcare delivery focused on delivering healthcare to people born 1925-44.
But the values of this “Greatest Generation” aren’t the same as the Boomer generation.
Boomers don’t want to be directed — they want to be engaged in the healthcare process.
They will be candidates for self care and health technology.
Likewise, Gen-X’ers (born 1965-1984), want self-sufficiency, convenience and immediate access.
They will respond to even more technology solutions.
They, along with Boomers, constitute Minute Clinic’s target customers.
Minute Clinic focuses on providing a standardised set of services that can be provided by nurse practitioners thus lowering the overall costs of the services.
But in Australia, these services can be performed by clinically trained pharmacists if there is resolve and clear goal setting by pharmacy leaders.
Minute Clinic doesn’t claim to compete with the expertise of a Mayo Clinic.
Rather, it focuses on minor illness exams, minor injury exams, skin condition exams, wellness & prevention, vaccinations, and health condition monitoring.
If customers have a serious or unusual ailment, Minute Clinic will recommend that they seek more in-depth medical attention.
What will be the next healthcare delivery innovation?
Using Howe’s model of generations and the different values which each generation has, Howe sees that Millennials (born 1985-2004) are just beginning to understand their needs and that they want technology-based connections.
In that future, the mantra will move from the Boomers’ “Engage Me” to the Millennials’ “Connect Me” demand for technology-based connections to their cell phones, laptops and the digitized world of social networks.
- Look for products and services that have become costly and underutilised due to years of accumulated complexities
- Look for generational differences in expectations, tolerances, and preferences
- Create a solution that increases convenience and certainty
- Create a solution that reduces complexity and cost
- Address 80% of the problem with something simple rather than 100% of the problem with something complex
Given that Minute Clinic was one of the first brand names into the “clinic space” in a pharmacy, the above commentary is very relevant to Australian pharmacy today.
Minute Clinics are beginning to show strong opportunities for growth and while the original clinics used only nurses, it is believed that the clinic space can be populated by pharmacists individually or by pharmacists and nurses collectively.
Once accepted by patients, the pharmacy clinical space can become multi-faceted, with some clinics in the US attracting GP’s working within them.
Perhaps when pharmacy leaders contemplate the professional future for pharmacists, some thought can be given to other health professionals collaborating with pharmacists (in the pharmacy clinical space) as well as pharmacists collaborating with other health professionals within their health spaces.
It should be a two-way process remembering that it is what the patient desires that will win in the long haul, which may not necessarily reflect the vision of doctors and pharmacists as viewed now.
If the time and effort is not put into the design of a new service offering it will not provide a successful patient pathway. It is not necessarily about aging patients, more about patients who are still in the workforce and have an ability to pay for their services, provided they are delivered in a manner acceptable to them.
Some aging patients will want to be part of this health revolution but generally will find difficulty in separating from their existing services, which is a primary reason for having clinics owned only by clinical pharmacists with no pecuniary interest in the host pharmacy.
The future looks exciting – if it can break away from the chains holding it back.