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3 Strategies for Empowering Patients to Be More Like Consumers

Posted November 18, 2014 by Editor
Categories: Healthcare

This post was written by Joy Liu, Director of Strategy at Jump Associates. You can get in touch with her directly by commenting on this post.

Trending healthcare discussions from the Affordable Care Act to digital health startups share a common mantra—that consumer health is the answer. However, as discussed during a conversation I facilitated around the Role of the Patient at TEDMED 2013, as much as patients are responsible for their own health, the system is currently not set up in a way where people are empowered to act like consumers.

Unlike most consumer scenarios, in healthcare we often have very little expertise and control in our purchasing. To transform the experience of healthcare, we need to examine the aspects of the current healthcare experience that hold people back from being truly empowered, and alter them in a way that they more closely imitate a traditional consumer experience.

Here are three strategies that businesses and organizations can use to disrupt the current healthcare experience to enable people to own their own care like a consumer:

1. Empower people with knowledge.
As a patient visiting a doctor today, we may be told to get some tests. We have no idea what they are or how much they’ll cost, but we still get them. The results come back, and the doctor spends less than a minute interpreting them for us. The doctor recommends a treatment. If we’re lucky, we’re given treatment options. Then, the doctor is out the door onto the next patient.

In this scenario, we have very little knowledge—about the tests, about our diagnosis, about the treatments, and about the costs. How can we be expected to make sound choices when we do not have the information to weigh benefits and risks, know if a price is fair, and compare the choices?

There are several organizations out there today empowering people with knowledge. Working with the Choosing Wisely initiative, Consumer Reports Health provides both patients and providers with information about treatment options and outcomes. To help people on the cost front, Clear Health Costs launched Price Check to crowd-source health cost data for the benefit of the public. In an industry with little transparency, knowledge is power.

2. Make subtle yet significant shifts in control.
We’re sick. We call the doctor’s office and the next available appointment is a couple days out smack in the middle of an important work meeting. We arrive at the office, and we’re asked to prepay. The doctor is late, so we wait 15 minutes. We get a little anxious. We spend only a brief amount of time with the doctor before they are out the door onto the next patient. Weeks later we receive a bill.

In this scenario, we have very little control. Our schedule is dependent on the doctor’s. We have to go see them. We have no idea what we’re paying until weeks later. How can we be expected to feel empowered when we have very little power over what is happening to us?

Doctor on Demand puts some control back into the hands of the consumer. This telemedicine service provides $40 appointments to anyone, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. Besides the clear cost and on-demand nature that puts consumers in control, telemedicine inherently allows people to choose “where” they see the doctor. Maybe they feel most comfortable sitting at their kitchen table—or maybe it’s on a cozy couch at home. By shifting some of the power in the provider-patient relationship, people may feel more comfortable asking questions, seeking knowledge, and acting like consumers.

3. Get personal.
We’ve been avoiding going to the doctor for years because we’re afraid of what they’ll tell us. Our family makes us go to the doctor for a preventative visit. The doctor tells us to exercise more, scolds us for our cholesterol or blood pressure, and scrutinizes our eating habits. We like the idea of being healthy, but to do everything just seems hard. Just thinking about it stresses us out and we eat some candy.

In this scenario, health is insular. We know high blood pressure is bad, but we don’t actually know what that will mean for us. We know we are bound to eat unhealthy sometimes, but we don’t know what foods will do us less harm. How can we expect to own our own care when there’s a disconnect between the suggestions we’re given and their actual implications in our lives?

Iora Health believes in empowering people to become active participants in their own wellbeing. As such, health coaches are a key player in Iora Health’s model for primary care. Every Iora patient gets a health coach who gets to know them as individuals, including their hopes, fears, and challenges. By getting to know the whole person, these coaches work together with their patients on care plans that meet their personal goals and needs. With context, suggestions about our health become actionable advice on how we can actually become healthier.

Treating patients like consumers doesn’t provide all the answers for improving healthcare, but the key tenets of the consumer experience—knowledge, control, and personalization—provide powerful signposts for disrupting the current healthcare experience. If we take lessons from the three strategies mentioned here, organizations can begin to create the better healthcare experience that we so desperately need today.


photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Place Matters and Matters of Place

Posted November 3, 2014 by Editor

socializing over background

This post, originally published on May 13, 2014, was written by Lauren Pollak. Lauren, Principal & Financial Services Practice Lead here at Jump, is hosting a panel titled “CEOs Reengineering to Reengage Retail Customers" at Money20/20 in Las Vegas on November 5, 2014.

In anticipation of this panel, we've republished a blog Lauren wrote earlier this year. You can find her on Twitter @LaurenPollak, or reach out to her directly by commenting on this post.

I spoke on a panel about the Future of Work last night, along with Bernice Boucher, Sonya Dufner, Dan Johnson, David Landgraf, and moderator Joyce Bromberg. One of the topics of the evening included mobility and the global workforce. That got me thinking–do we still need old-fashioned physical offices? Does place still matter?

In short, I think the answer is an unequivocal yes.

And Silicon Valley, of all places, proves the point.

The New York Times ran an article some time ago about the micro-clusters of technology-related businesses dotting the San Francisco Bay Area. Networking lies to the south, near San Jose. Product design centers around Palo Alto. And digital media resides further north, up in San Francisco.

That’s an incredible irony: the metropolis that helped launch the information superhighway–indeed, the area that’s named after the silicon in processor chips–still relies on the interstate highway to do business. Yaniv Bensadon, the founder of a tech support startup, put it best:

“For a consumer Internet company, this is where everything happens. It’s true that things can be done anywhere on the Internet, but at the end of the day it’s still a people business.”

In an era when we rely on technology to do everything from ordering take-out to diagnosing illnesses, it’s easy to forget how much people still matter. But they do. Humans have spent the last several hundred thousand years evolving into highly sophisticated social creatures. We have complex systems for creating and communicating meaning, most of which go far beyond the words we verbalize.

Indeed, the vast majority of meaning lies not in what we say, but the way we say it: gestures, expression, tone, even body heat. And we haven’t yet evolved past that. True, we can now pepper emails with increasingly sophisticated emoticons. But communication mediated by technology is necessarily stymied, because technology simply can’t recreate the hundreds of nonverbal cues we rely on.

This lesson is easy enough to understand in the context of romantic relationships. Nobody enjoys a long-distance relationship, no matter how many free night-and-weekend minutes they have. But for some reason, that lesson becomes muddied when it comes to business relationships. When people are trying to do something complicated, like create a new product, they often forget the basics. Smart, multi-disciplinary teams follow best practices, nailing down the design specs, forecasting revenue, and developing clever go-to-market plans.

But what kills most innovation isn’t a lack of ideas. It’s a lack of relationships. At the end of the day, innovation is an intensely social activity. And it’s those relationships–often more than the quality of the ideas themselves–that determine whether an idea ever sees the light of day.

No doubt it’s this very analysis that led Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to end the company’s work-from-home policy. To turn around the business, rejuvenate the culture, boost revenue, and stop brain drain, she needed people to come back to the office to do something very basic: reconnect with one another. Whether this story has a happy ending is still an open question–but what is clear is that she could never have reinvented Yahoo! over a series of conference calls.

It’s surprising that Silicon Valley’s famously awkward engineers may understand the basic social principle of innovation far better than their suaver peers in other industries. And it’s a good reminder to the rest of us: innovation isn’t a creativity problem. It’s a people problem.


photo credit: ashraful kadir via photopin cc

How to Close the Gender Gap and Move Beyond Rhetoric and Into Action

Posted October 29, 2014 by Editor

This post was written by Lenna El-Safwany, Director of Marketing at Jump Associates. Follow her on Twitter @lennalu, or connect with her directly by commenting on this post.

You’ve heard the stats around women in the workforce, particularly in technology and sciences. Day after day, our Twitter streams overflow with factoids on job stats of men vs. women. Books stack the shelves with research on the gender gap. Evening news reports shame companies that shirk the diversity issue.

Women make up over half the total workforce in the U.S., yet in STEM-related fields like technology, women only make up 26% of the workforce. Over a lifetime of work, a woman with a bachelor’s degree will earn a third less (some $700,000) than a man with a same degree. Only 24% of CIOs at Fortune 500 companies are female. The number of women promoted to board seats in Fortune 500 companies, which steadily increased in the late twentieth century, has dropped over the last three years.

We get it. We’ve read Lean In. We gawked and rose up our arms in response to Nadella’s gaff. But what have we done about it? What can we do about it? What lessons can we learn from history, governments, and companies about how to change it? It’s time to move from rhetoric to actionable steps and transform the opportunities for women.

Just last week, the White House published this status along with the hashtag #EqualPay, which shows how dire the situation is for women four years after graduation (see leading image for the graph included in the tweet):

As Charles Dickens once said, “Washington D.C. is filled with good intentions, but the dream is far from reality.” While I applaud the White House for bringing this fact to the public’s attention, the truth is that women comprise approximately 1/3 of leadership positions in U.S. government and earn approximately 75% of the pay offered to men in the same positions. Clearly, a hashtag is a far cry from an actionable solution.

Some argue that women are at a disadvantage due to “societal norms.” Women battle the gender gap from the time they’re in pigtails to when they rock the professional bob. From elementary school on, girls get the subtle message that science and math are for boys. Girls that are otherwise capable in STEM are pushed toward social sciences. However, studies show that “the most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes into STEM studies might be whether anyone encourages her to go on.” The unintentional message a young woman receives not only affects where she ends up in the workforce, but how and why she gets there.

The societal pressures don’t end there. Historically, women in work struggle with a balance between an overt “masculine” personality and “feminine” demeanor. Women who are seen as “too dominant” face the most harassment in the workplace. In the office, it’s not uncommon for women to discriminate against other women, aligning themselves with men in order to reap the implied benefits of being “one of the guys.” Some women actively distance themselves from complaints of gender bias to show loyalty to their company. The cards are stacked against women and make it tough to have equal footing in the rat race.

But we often forget that it’s not just about playing the game—it’s about changing it. We know the facts: across industries and across the world, women are under represented, underpaid, and many times, undervalued. Women can jump in, but it takes a consistent and united effort to move society past the perception of equal roles of women in work to actual equality.

Some governments and businesses successfully combat gender disparity by identifying the real issues and shifting perceptions and, ultimately, opportunities for women:


1.     The Power of Government.

It’s arguable that government has the most power to affect real transformation in the perception and practice of equality in work. For years, NASA essentially, but not explicitly, banned women from space. In order to become an astronaut, one was required to first serve as a jet test pilot. But, since the US government banned women from serving as jet test pilots, this requirement effectively made it impossible for any woman to become an astronaut. Not until 1995 after the ban on combat roles was rescinded were women allowed to pilot in space.

Norway is considered the world leader in gender equality and champions a society that offers equal opportunities to both men and women. Norway went so far as amending their conscription rights to include 2 years of civil service for both men and women—the only European country and NATO member practicing gender-neutral conscription. Norway touts that rights and obligations should not inherently favor one gender over the other.  Besides, they want the best recruits, and what better way to find the best of the best than to widen the pool of candidates by 50% of the entire population?

Government initiatives aren’t always the answer (nor do they always need to be this far-reaching), but they can serve as a good model for other business to imitate.

2.     The Power of Business.  

Forward-looking companies identify bias indicators and put metrics behind internal gender equality initiatives. The use of trigger words in a job post can affect whether a woman applies for a job, let alone lands it. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that job advertisements that do not explicitly mention the possibility of wage negotiation tend to attract men over women, since men prefer job environments where the 'rules of wage determination' are ambiguous. Job postings that use words like “ambitious” or “competitive” also attract more male candidates than women.

Google was concerned that women were not being promoted at the same rate as men within the company. Google executives created algorithms to pinpoint why women were not moving up the ranks.  Google reviewed the promotion process and noted that women were not meeting the requirement that they must self-nominate for promotion. Women are not as inherently inclined to self-promotion as men. In order to combat the disparity of female leadership, Google started an initiative to teach women how to self-nominate and realized an increase of women in leadership roles.

Although initiatives to increase wages for women and get more women into fields like technology and science are well-intentioned, we won’t start seeing real progress until companies start paying attention to some of business’ less obvious gender biased practices.

3.    The Power of Innovation.

The common assumption in many cases is still, unfortunately, that men have families to support and that mothers need to run home to take care of kids. Many are finding answers to such dichotomies through tech innovation. In September 2014, 150 parents, engineers, designers, and healthcare givers gathered at MIT for the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” Hackathon. Aside from its excellent name, this hackathon represented a necessary step to make it easier to be a professional woman with children.

Tech advancements can ease that burden on women, allowing them to be in the office and take on long-term assignments while still caring for kids.

It’s time to stop talking about the facts and figures around gender issues, and time to start doing something to enact change. The only way to ensure that we move past disheartening statistics to real transformation of society is to learn and apply methods of change to government initiatives and business practices. Whatever the next step may be, I’m certain that it involves amore than just throwing numbers on the Twitter wall.


Photo credit: The White House via Twitter

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