Independent healthcare providers must take inspiration from other business sectors and help patients to make an informed choice, insists Healthcode, the specialists in online solutions for the private healthcare sector.
Speaking at LaingBuisson’s Independent Healthcare Forum in London on Thursday 11 September, Healthcode’s Managing Director, Peter Connor, argued that the sector’s lack of investment in information technology made it difficult to collect meaningful information about available services, prices and quality and outcomes and risked undermining the strong case for private healthcare.
He commented: “I think we all know instinctively that the quality of care in the independent sector is top class – the problem is that we still don’t have the tools to prove it. And that’s because the information resources, which should be supporting our excellent medical technology and facilities, are still in the dark ages.”
In his presentation, Peter Connor referred to service encounters in other industries such as booking airline flights, car servicing and restaurants: “The consumer now expects to be able to use their tablets, mobile phones or laptops to find, choose, book, and pay for services when it is most convenient for them. They can do this for virtually everything else so why should healthcare be different?”
“I believe the independent health sector’s approach to information technology should be shaped by what we already understand about the needs and preferences of consumers.”
Healthcode has produced a roadmap which sets out the different types of information that should be available to potential patients:
• Clear and meaningful Quality and Outcomes information, which can be compared with the alternatives, including the NHS.
• A basic directory of services showing who does what, where and for whom and the available appointment slots.
• A common and understandable language to describe the available services.
• Patient reviews of their experiences with that provider, that treatment, and that facility.
• Care and treatment costs, including charges for self-paying patients, confirmation of whether the treatment is covered by the patient’s medical insurance policy and top-up fees if applicable.
The company is already providing data processing services to the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) which enables it to produce and publish hospital episode statistics. However, Peter Connor stressed that the NHS was already offering patients more information and services online, however imperfectly, and the pressure was on the private sector to up its game.
He concluded: “I hope independent healthcare providers and insurers will accept the challenge of investing in the information technology necessary to collect and process information which assists patient choice and access. Otherwise we will be open to criticism, not just from the CMA but from our most important audience: the consumer. Healthcode is ready to work with industry stakeholders to ensure our information supports patient choice and is a credit to the sector.”