Technology is transforming every part of our lives – changing the way we shop, travel, watch television and more. Healthcare is no exception, and the pace of change is only going to accelerate – driven by IoT, mobile, artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies.
With a wave of emerging technologies, it begs the question - what does the future of digital healthcare look like? How will it impact today’s practitioners, hospitals, health systems, and more importantly patients? And how can organisations navigate the potential risks, pitfalls and roadblocks in order to harness technology effectively, and create a better healthcare system for all.
We set out to explore these critical questions and more through the Luminaries series of interviews, talking to some of the titans, mavericks and influencers changing healthcare today. Throughout this series, Colette Balaam, CEO of our Kin+Carta partner agency Hive asks the difficult questions to discover what makes these luminaries tick.
Our third luminary is Virginie Faucon, Head of Digital Propositions & Customer Experience at Aviva, a London-based multinational provider of insurance. Virginie heads up Aviva’s health and protection insurance, propositions and customer experience teams inside the organisation.
Here’s what she had to say about the challenges and opportunities of serving patients in a demanding and high-speed digital landscape, as well as expanding on her passions around promoting holistic well-being that encompasses mental health.
Colette Balaam: Could you give us your perspective on what it will look and feel like to be one of your customers in five years? What do you believe will be the same, and what do you believe will be different?
Virginie Faucon: Currently, our healthcare customers come to us through two primary online channels – one large intermediary channel and a direct corporate channel. With our direct customers, I hope that in five years time we would have more of them coming in and buying insurance products directly. One key to achieving that is having a clear, intuitive online ordering process that eases customer decision making and alleviates the need for them to go through intermediaries for assistance. To attract and accommodate these direct customers, it’s essential that we make it easy for them to buy online by streamlining and simplifying the decision-making process.
In terms of the broader healthcare insurance market, I think we’re steadily evolving and improving to make the customer journey faster and more efficient. We’re getting quotes back to customers quickly so they can make an informed decision and we’re using available data to do that. That way they don’t have to wait for weeks for a doctor’s report or something like that.
We’re also making progress to expand the healthcare experience to include the patient’s overall well-being. Mental health is a growing area for us at the moment, and we’re trying to expand into other facets of healthcare that extend beyond only going to see a doctor when you are ill. Our aim for the future is to give our customers access to bundles of products and insurance services that cover a wider range around health and well-being issues in general.
CB: Changing direction a bit, and thinking about the patient experience in the context of digital transformation, what do you see as the biggest challenges and also the biggest opportunities for the healthcare industry in today’s digital world?
VF: We do talk a lot about digital and its role in our customer strategy. Certainly, everyone wants to leverage digital technology and data no matter the industry — and the healthcare industry is no different. I think there are some fundamental shifts in how digital has just changed people’s expectations and the way they want to interact with brands, consumer products, and control the customer experience. That expectation is clearly evident no matter the sector and is particularly true for healthcare as well.
"There are some fundamental shifts in how digital has just changed people's expectations and the way they want to interact with brands, consumer products, and control the customer experience"
We’re almost being led by the customer in terms of the challenges and opportunities. For example, people just don’t want to wait anymore. And in the UK, that’s definitely a big issue. People like immediacy; they want to get the diagnostics now. They’re happy to use phone and Skype and a host of digital engagement methods, but it needs to be immediate. The service needs to be seamless, and so typically that translates into things like digital GP services, which are becoming almost commonplace and no longer innovative.
Most providers these days are offering digital GP services, digital surgery services, prescriptions that go straight to your home, and more of these immediate services because that is the expectation. I think the baseline of healthcare needs to be reinvented because people expect every service to be different. That is essentially the start of it. While challenging, I think it also presents a great opportunity. As an insurance company, as well as as a general healthcare provider, we’re able to get closer to the customers through our ability to deliver fast, intimate services. These touchpoints bring us closer and offer a great way of engaging with the customers. That is an opportunity for us to use digital to tap into and optimize our direct customer channel while relying less on intermediary channels.
The challenge is to keep up with the pace while also meeting customer expectations. Within healthcare specifically, the challenge we have at the moment with digital is that you still need to remain true to the science — the medical science. Whatever service you deliver has to be proven and trusted and based on real medical facts.
"Within healthcare specifically, the challenge we have at the moment with digital is that you still need to remain true to the science – the medical science"
Any new digital innovations need to be balanced and evaluated by proper governing bodies and risk teams who are tasked with making sure that things are tested and proven before we introduce them in the healthcare context. So there’s a limitation and I think it’s to protect the customer as well. It’s a challenge we have to face to remain compliant in a highly regulated industry. That’s where many of our innovation challenges are at the moment.
CB: That’s great and ties in nicely to one of our follow-up questions, which is, how do you discern what is a fad when it comes to the new technology? And even if it’s not a fad, how do you still take that conservative approach knowing that patient care and regulatory compliance is imperative?
VF: I think this is very true for healthcare, less true for other industries. Within our product portfolio, we also provide general insurance. If I take car insurance or home insurance, these are services where we have a little more liberty to innovate. But with healthcare, we have our own regulators. We’re regulated by the FDA. We have our risk teams that we need to always comply with, and on top of that, we also work with doctors and we have a board of medical teams who have to also give us guidance. So we have some fairly tight parameters on the types of things we can do from a digital and innovation perspective. The good news is these experts are the ones who are best positioned to prove health claims, document outcomes and spot emerging fads that are unproven and have no real medical backing.
The area of DNA testing is a good example. Many providers have come out with their DNA testing. It’s obviously within the health space, it’s starting to become quite popular for its ability to help predict the propensity for critical illness and disease etc. We are still on the fence because using that data in our insurance underwriting is still not documented or proven enough. It’s a good example where unproven scientific methods and regulation parameters provide critical guidance in helping to distinguish between a customer trend, a fad or something that might be a true product innovation that we can implement.
CB: With all that in mind, what technologies do you think will have the greatest impact on healthcare over the next three years. Is there any other areas, beyond the DNA testing you mentioned, that you think might really make an impactful shift?
VF: Yes. We’re doing some pilot projects currently with some providers to leverage customer fitness data to assess someone’s level of general health. I think there’s definitely room for innovation there in terms of not only using fitness data but also using smartphones and data from other connected devices to help us — from an insurance point of view — to really gain better insight into a customers’ overall level of health.
It also presents an opportunity to improve the overall customer experience so we don’t have to ask for that information from our customers. We get it through the data. In the future we might be able to cut our application process from several pages to just a few key questions by using intelligent data instead. We’re doing a lot of work now to link our algorithm and pricing to that data without having to ask the customer for anything. That’s definitely an area of innovation that we are seeing coming along quite nicely.
"The challenge – and advantage – is finding a way to deliver healthcare in a connected way where people can be anywhere at anytime and still get provision of health"
Connected health, in general, is a huge area of innovation, whether it’s using fitness data to tailor healthcare plans or online monitoring for diagnostics and treatment. The challenge — and advantage — is finding a way to deliver healthcare in a connected way where people can be anywhere at any time and still get the provision of health.
CB: Wonderful. My final question is much more personal and broad-reaching, but, what would you like to be your personal long-term contribution to improving the healthcare ecosystem?
VF: One area I’m personally passionate about is expanding healthcare beyond what is traditionally described as “health.” Certainly, for an insurer, we traditionally cover illnesses and injuries, but I’d love to broaden that reach to giving people access and services around things that are equally as important to general health, like mental health. That’s certainly something we’re doing a lot of work on because it’s not being traditionally recognized as an illness. But we are expanding on provisions there.
The other thing, for me is really improving the immediacy and the direct access to health services and to treatment specifically. That’s where innovation and the digital tools we talked about come into play. That’s our main aim and an area I’d love to contribute to. People expect immediacy. They expect seamless journeys in every aspect of their lives and we can take on that challenge for health. We can introduce innovation that cuts through the administrative obstacles and quickly addresses diagnostics, treatments and healing. Progress in this area can make a huge difference in the patient experience.
"We can introduce innovation that cuts through the administrative obstacles and quickly addresses diagnostics, treatment and healing"
Lastly, one final area of interest for me is around prevention. Traditionally insurance has focused on protecting you and servicing you after something has happened, but not so much in the area of prevention. That’s where insurance has a lot of room for growth. We have customer data. We have information that can be useful and we certainly are looking at things around how to create that preventative service through early diagnostics and other techniques like DNA analysis — if it’s used in the right way. I think that’s where we need to get to and where everything is leading, and I’d love to influence the thinking around how can we get better at preventing issues before they occur rather than treating them after the fact.
The interview 'Innovation allows for immediacy in healthcare' was originally posted on Kin+Carta Medium.