If there’s one industry problem I’ve always wanted to tackle, it’s the problem of booking appointments, and filling out your health profile with your provider, online. As it stands, almost every provider I’ve dealt with in Canada has their own system. If you’re a relatively young and healthy person, chances are you haven’t had to fill out too many of these forms. Booking an appointment might irk you, especially since they’re still done through phone calls these days. But, you’re probably not aware of the issue that happens when you’re filling out multiple forms every month for several different providers. Oh the agony!
At one point in time, I had 8 different specialists looking into a multifactorial issue, causing a wide variety of symptoms. In other words, I had a lot of health stuff going on, and I had a lot of different doctors looking into it. When you’re dealing with any major or chronic health issue, that means filling out these health forms several times a month. Add on any dentist or optometrist visits, and you’ve got even more forms to fill out! Some of these forms take 15 minutes, some of them take as long as an hour. Some of them have you enter the information for every single medication you take, and some want a thorough medical history, including the names and contact info for every single doctor you’ve seen in the past five years. Now, imagine you’ve got 8 doctors to deal with…
To make matters worse, none of this information is shared between providers. It’s my understanding that the rules don’t let them share? And therein lies one of the problems.
If you want to develop an app for consumers, typically, you’ve only got a few rules to look into. Electronic privacy rules, e-commerce rules, etc. It’s not too hard to find out what you need to know to get started with your product, and even then, if you’re a merchant, you’ve got back-ends like Shopify to simplify the process for you. But in healthcare, there are SO MANY rules.
The rules aren’t easy to find, and they’re not always clear. I don’t know of a single go-to resource for tech companies looking to innovate in the Canadian healthcare space (if there is one, please let me know!). Everything is governed by acronyms, HIPAA, PIPEDA, GDPR, etc.
From the research I’ve done, it would take an incredible amount of start-up funding to innovate in this space, and it would take a whole lot of compliance expertise to make it happen. One thing I should mention is that there are new start-ups that I’m watching because they’ve started to offer compliant back-ends. (I’d like to wait a bit before commenting on this, but I think it might be the way of the future if it’s affordable enough for tech startups to use the service.)
So, we know what the problems are, but why haven’t they already been solved? Is it simply a question of funding? Is it a lack of imagination? Is it a lack of resources? Or, are the rules simply too restrictive to allow for innovation to take place? Even if the rules don’t allow providers to share information, there are still ways to simplify, and standardize, the process. Coupled with automation, a patient could simply press a “Fill” button if nothing in their medical history has changed.
These are all questions I’d like to explore over the next five years. I certainly don’t have the resources nor the funding to tackle it on my own. But, I’d be happy to nudge those who do, to go for it. If there’s one thing I’m always happy to work on, and to help bring to market, it’s a product that can save us a considerable amount of time, and make life easier for the providers.
We’ve already seen a similar disruption in finance. Last year, I finally started using Wealthsimple as my discount brokerage. What did they do that the banks couldn’t do? They made it EASY. It’s dirt simple to setup your account, buy your stocks or ETFs, and heck, you can even buy crypto on there now. They don’t barrage me with emails or notifications. They’re missing a few key features that I think would make it an even better product, but I can state with confidence: this one’s a game changer.
And I want that for healthcare. I want to be able to book my appointments through an app similar to Calendly. I want to be able to fill out ONE medical history chart and have every provider, from doctors, to dentists, to optometrists, to massage therapists, have access to it. I want to be able to opt in or out of SMS reminders. And I want to be able to pay for stuff online.
Most of all, I want their forms to work on mobile. Seriously.
It is unreal to me that our healthcare is operating in the dark ages. No wonder providers and administrators are burnt out. I wish we could rely on government funding for tech innovation in this space, but it’s simply not a priority in our country. And, I’m not sure there’s enough private investment interest, either. I really think it’s going to come down to a group of like-minded people coming together and saying, “hey, let’s tackle this thing”. If any of you are out there, I’m bringing my skillset to the table. Let’s talk.
Down where I live, we have health care networks. As long as you utilise the network providers, your records are automatically available to them. Though, annoyingly you still have to fill out their new patient paperwork the first time you see them, but after that it’s smooth sailing. They even have an app so you can look up your results and records. Now if only they didn’t have to be “in network”, but also, if only there weren’t selfish inconsiderate people out there that would use an easily accessible global medical records network to steal your information.
In some provinces in Canada, there are diagnostics companies (xrays, ultrasounds) that offer similar apps where we can get our results all in one place. In the province we’re moving to, the only place to get bloodwork and ultrasounds done is at the hospital, sadly. I love the idea of having healthcare networks. It would be far easier to standardize forms, and the booking process if a whole bunch of clinics were to commit to one system. Our hospitals are largely all on board with one of two systems, but let me tell you: they’re complete crap. Hey, at least the data is all in one place. 😉
The federal government has put this on the agenda at health ministers’ conferences, but it has gone nowhere, and without the provinces assenting, it can’t. Even within provinces, hospitals and public health agencies don’t have the same system. Some of the objections have been valid, others pointless. One contact at PWGCS told me that the feds have quietly let provinces know that they would kick in lots of cash for the planning and implementation, but “infrastructure is not a priority for everybody.” I have a printout of health stuff which I just hand to them.
I think some of the changes will need to come from adjacent health markets, especially in more privatized industries like massage therapy, physio, dental care, long-term care, etc. We’re already starting to see this, where you can book appointments online, fill out online forms, get text message reminders, see your results online, etc. The market will put pressure on the gov’t, over time. This is also why I’m in favour of a two-tier system, but that’s a conversation for another day. 😉