When I talk about healthcare, I think it’s valuable to divide patients into two distinct categories. The first category is chronic patients who go and see their doctor every month or more. They have some sort of chronic disease which requires them to take part in the healthcare system on a regular basis. The second category is “healthy” patients. I put “healthy” in quotes because we all know that there’s plenty of chronic disease sitting silently in these patients. However, I call them “healthy” patients because their disease or sickness doesn’t require them to go to the doctor regularly.
No doubt, there are a lot of nuances within these two groups, but I find that it’s valuable to talk about how a person interacts with the healthcare system using these two groups since they have very different approaches and needs. However, when talking about healthcare IT solutions, I often find people arguing about the effectiveness of the solution because of the nuances between these two types of patients in healthcare.
The simple fact that the 2nd group can just choose not to go to the doctor or delay going to the doctor. This dramatically influences their decision making and affords them more flexibility in when and how they choose to take part in healthcare. While I don’t want to say the 1st group has no choice, they have much less flexibility because choosing to delay care while they evaluate alternatives can literally be a life and death decision. Or at least a painful one.
We see the difference in these two types of patients in the world of telehealth. For example, chronic patients will have more of a desire to see “their” doctor vs some random doctor via telemedicine. As a chronic patient, seeing your doctor means you don’t have to explain your entire health history which can often be lengthy and complex. A patient just experiencing cold symptoms would prefer to see their own doctor, but are often fine seeing any doctor that is available.
There are hundreds of other examples like this in healthcare. And not differentiating between the needs of each group often confuses the discussion and the solutions offered to patients. Of course, there are hundreds of other ways to slice and dice patients and their specific needs. However, if we could start by just talking about these two groups and their unique needs, challenges, and opportunities, we’d have much less confusion in healthcare.