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Futurist warns of dire outcome for centers that resist change

September 26, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Could today's addiction treatment centers end up going the route of Blockbuster and taxicabs in a Netflix and Uber world? An enterprise strategist who has worked with several healthcare disciplines opened the Moments of Change conference in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday by predicting that without major business and clinical transformation, extinction is inevitable.

Nicholas Webb, author of The Innovation Playbook and the soon-to-be-released What Customers Crave, said that everywhere in healthcare, great practices that think clinical efficacy alone will rule the day are being destroyed. “Being good is no longer good enough,” Webb told the audience at the Sept. 26-29 conference hosted by Foundations Recovery Network and Southworth Associates.

“We are going to displace the very models you're most comfortable with,” said Webb. Future success in behavioral health practice will ride on four pillars, he pointed out: best technology, digital strategy (well beyond a website and a Facebook page), patient experience design (engaging patients in more advanced and creative ways), and the leveraging of economic models.

Webb spent a good deal of his talk focusing on the patient experience pillar, and said treatment organizations must base their efforts here on understanding the differing personas of their customers. Much as his four children are all motivated by different factors, he said, patients also respond differently. Companies such as Apple have successfully found ways to distinguish the customer who cherishes human interaction in their buying experience from those who want no part of that, and have learned to serve both equally well, and this is where healthcare organizations that offer one-size-fits-all services largely have failed, he said.

First impressions

Webb advised the providers in the audience to pay special attention to the message they convey in their earliest contact with a patient. Eighty percent of his/her impression of the provider will be formed in the first point of contact, he said. So it might not be a good idea to duplicate what Webb photographed in the waiting room of an urgent-care clinic he recently visited, where the customer is greeted with a visual blight of posted notices about additional charges, check fees and the like.

Other key touchpoints for the provider include the message that is left with the patient at the end of treatment, and how the organization stays in touch with the patient afterwards, Webb said.

For those who might believe that cataclysmic change can't happen to their traditional behavioral health organizations, Webb cited several eye-opening examples from other branches of healthcare. Optometrists are suddenly finding more patients going online to receive eye exams and order lenses (such as via Opternative), primary care doctors have competition from services that let the customer see a doctor from a computer or mobile device (LiveHealth Online), and there are even modular long-term care structures that can be installed on one's property as an alternative to a nursing home for some individuals, he said.

Addiction treatment facilities will have to become truly patient-centered in order to stay relevant, Webb said. “Healthcare is now a consumer packaged good,” he said.