The Digital Care Business
I recently underwent an adventurous experience ( to put it lightly😊) where over a 55 day period, I was hospitalized for about 25 days and spent the days in the middle recovering at home! I got admitted to a hospital for the first time in my life, three different hospitals for two unrelated serious aliments. Thanks to the progress made in the field of healthcare, I obviously survived!
During this period I got exposed a bit more closely to how medical professionals work and healthcare in general. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but attempt to draw some parallels between healthcare and the IT / software consultancy business that I have been involved with for most of my career. Here are some inferences I could draw and wanted to share the same and check if these resonate with you.
- We all would agree digitization is become a necessity for any business:
- Small road side “vada pav” (a vegetarian fast food dish native to the state of Maharashtra) vendors have started accepting some form of digital payments.
- For business not having anything special about their products as compared to their competition, digitization has helped them improve upon their processes, for e.g. reduction of ‘Daily Sales Outstanding’ (DSO), thus giving them a competitive advantage where they are able to keep the ball rolling with a lot less cash reserves and potentially scale up their business further.
While “health care” and “digital care” (if there can be such a term) businesses are vastly different, both in a way are part of the services industry. “Healthcare” has been there since ages, “digital care” is relatively recent. Healthcare is for individuals, digital care is for businesses. Both businesses can be thought of having a preventive, curative and innovative aspects to it.
2. In healthcare there are often times when the effort is led by a specialist for e.g. a surgeon. Instead of the patient directly approaching a hospital the patient actively seek references from their family physician, relatives or friends, connects with the surgeon who in turn suggests a couple of hospitals they are connected with and have a rapport with doctor(s) associated with those hospitals to get the procedure done.
Incase of digital care, can we imagine a scenario where a business approaches an expert migration consultant to migrate their travel transport and hospitality application from on-premises to the hybrid multi-cloud environment to help the business save money during this period of Covid19 and beyond? This consultant should then be in a position to loop in service providers (similar to hospitals in healthcare), cloud vendors (other specialists) to execute the job. I guess we are going down that path where, if not individual consultants, but niche verticalized service provides are picking up such contracts as compared to larger organizations but such examples are far and few! Such a model leveraging the specialized knowledge and experience of the consultants and service providers could benefit the customers in terms of better quality, reduced duration, effort and hence possibly cost.
3. Taking the above thought process ahead, for the digital care businesses to mature to the level of specialization, few things that can possibly be picked up from the healthcare field are the way learning happens in this field :
- Typically every medical college has a hospital associated with it. So while theoretical knowledge is imparted, a big chuck of learning happens thru practical experience. This is missing in the digital care space, While ‘on the job’ learning happens, it not being formal limits its scalability. Some of the larger service provider organization run their own academy where they train fresh graduates but how much of it is on the job training on live projects and how much of this is formal practical learning recognized by academia?
- The other connected aspect is in case of health care, a lot of learning would be getting fed back from the practical experience gained in hospitals to academia and research due to their coexistence. The academia including the medical boards would then bring in the learnings together and drive standardization (for e.g. procedure for a Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG)) , role specialization (Heart Transplant Specialist, Covid 19 Specialist (maybe) ) and feed it back into the colleges and hospitals for all to benefit from the learnings. Can we imagine this to be happening for digital care? It would be great to have such a feedback loop between the service providers and academia and the education boards where we would standardize say:
- Procedure for ‘using IOT to ensure fresh food quality for an online grocery store’
- Formalize graduations in roles like an ‘Airline Application Security Architect’, ‘Solar Energy based Electricity Supply Business Continuity Specialist’, and so on…
So how about Service Providers starting up colleges or colleges entering the digital care businesses?
4. Another aspect that I found amazing is the level of diagnostics available in healthcare to pinpoint the problem. While at times we may crib at the numbers of tests the doctor prescribes for us, given that human beings are the most complicated chemical factory on the planet, and the available test are still not enough, all these tests help in detecting issues. Whereas in digital care, diagnostics seems to be at a very nascent stage. While there are diagnostics to analyze specific technical areas, we for e.g. don’t have a standardized procedure, tools or methods to measure and report say what is wrong with the customer experience of our online store! Fixing this problem is a totally different ball game as is correcting an electrolyte imbalance once detected in ones body! While in case of the above e.g., there are accessibility tools that help us to a degree, how do we figure out in advance if the flow makes sense to the users? What are the formal standardized parameters and their units of measurements for say usability, performance or reliability for one to attempt to build diagnostics for it? Can we think of service providers who specialize in diagnostics, like a pathologist or a phlebologist (one who specializes in diagnosis of venous disorders) or someone who specializes in ‘Computed tomography angiography’ (CTA) whose reports, for e.g. in the digital care space on usability, performance or reliability can be taken to other services provides to improve the situation? There seems to be a huge scope for building tools that can give us detailed digital care diagnostics for businesses
5. Once diagnostics is in place then the typical healthcare cycle of noticing symptoms (optional), diagnostics as part of the annual health checkup, analysis and correlation of reports, identifying, selecting and executing the most appropriate solution could potentially be applied to the digital care space too.
6. I guess we could call the digital care as a mature business when insurance companies enter the game and look to insure digital care services. This would indicate that quality digital care is available to business. Advancement in digital care diagnostics will surely help in the insurers determine the quality of the digital care deployed by businesses and help businesses be up to the mark to ensure reasonable premium payments.
I am sure not all would be rosy in the healthcare space and I am not an expert to comment on it, but one thing is for sure that there is a lot we in digital care could learn from this mature industry of healthcare. We need not take the same time to get to that level of maturity and could potentially leapfrog ahead in a dramatic fashion assuming the relevant learnings are applied appropriately.
Hope you found my perspective interesting! Do share your thoughts.
Last but not the least, and I can say based on my experience, the adventure I spoke of earlier is not worth it, though I am thankful to have got treated by excellent medical professionals supported by family and friends. So do continue to leverage the preventive aspects and take care of your physical and mental health to enjoy the more pleasant adventures of life! Hopefully the digital care business will mature soon to help businesses avoid misadventures!