Monday, July 10, 2017

Is the smartphone the cure to maintain physician independence?

The healthcare consumer will shell out $345 billion dollars this year for health insurance, co-payments, and deductibles. On top of that, they will spend another $271 billion on health-related items like gyms memberships, weight loss programs, exercise equipment, etc. That's a whopping $626 billion dollars out-of-pocket that are expected to rise for the foreseeable future.

The healthcare consumer and patient are demanding value, price and quality transparency from healthcare providers. Consumers want retail medicine, mHealth, and Telemedicine. All the while healthcare providers focus on market dominance and acquire physician practices to create market heft and then wonder why consumers are cranky?

With all of this happening then, is the smartphone the tool for physician independence? And, can the use of apps, mHealth and telemedicine allow a physician or physician group practice to remain independent?

In both cases, I think the answer is yes, with some pretty large ramifications for healthcare marketing as well.

First let’s reflect on the independent practitioner, primary care group or multi-specialty group.  Here is a story to illustrate my point. 

Some of you may remember a time when there were corner grocery stores.  Little mom and pop operations located in quite neighborhoods before the advent of the big box grocery chains.

Then it appears as if overnight, the big box national and regional grocery chains take over for our food dollar. We all heard the doom, gloom, and prophecy of the demise of those little mom and pop stores. Sure they are gone from the corner in the quiet neighborhood; but guess what, they are still around today and have been for a very long time.  Though the form is different, those little mom and pop operations are now the 7-Elevens, White Hen Pantries and AM-PM Minimarts for example.

Mom and pop operations competing very well against the big box grocery chains on convenience, accessibility, experience, engagement and sometimes even price.

I am not saying that physicians are grocery stores, but the lesson is apparent.  But before everyone calls the independent physician or unaffiliated group practice a thing of the past, one needs to review recent history in other markets for potential lessons of survival.  Technology, innovation and meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer, experience and engagement will keep the independent physician a reality.

The smartphone as the doctor meeting the healthcare needs of the consumer.  All of this driving convenient, accessible, mobile and giving the healthcare consumer or patient a measure of value, price certainty, quality, control, and information.

The use of technology and innovative care practices by physicians, which no doubt requires a change in the business model and some openness, can be the doctor’s friend in countering the advances of hospitals and health systems. In the long run, independent physicians are better for healthcare consumers and patient in care, experience, and engagement.  Besides, no matter the payment system it will still take a doctor’s order to get anything done.

Long live the independent physician.


Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and is read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


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