The “Uberization” Healthcare

Just as the driver-passenger dynamic shifted in the taxi industry with such mobile app-based transportation networks as Uber, so too will the caregiver-patient dynamic shift in healthcare.

In a speech delivered at MD&M West in February, Stuart Karten, the president of the product innovation consultancy Karten Design, predicted the “Uberization” of healthcare: “While medical technology lags behind consumer technology development due to more regulatory oversight, the Uber model is becoming analogous to what we are currently seeing at our design firm: more and more companies come to us in an effort to ‘disrupt’ existing models.”

It would seem that passengers and patients aren’t so different. Both are consumers, after all—people who expect to get what they want when they want it. As was the case for the taxicab model in the transportation industry, the current appointment-making model in healthcare is inefficient, not mobile, often times even unpleasant for the consumer.

Mobile technology had existed for more than a decade before Uber entered the fray, but the taxi industry had simply refused to accept it. Times are different now, but big change is rarely recognized right away. “Healthcare hasn’t yet seen its version of Uber,” said Karten, “But the signs are there: within the next decade, Uber-like companies will emerge.”

But what are the signs? They are manifested in two main forces that are presently transforming healthcare: cultural forces—as seen in the need of an aging population for daily management and care, as well as in Accountable Care’s pressure on many healthcare systems to quantify and measure results; and socio-economic forces—as seen in the widespread connectivity that has emerged across all economic classes in recent years. Today, some 6.9 billion cell phones are estimated to be in use worldwide—that’s up from 2 billion about a decade ago, according to Wireless Intelligence.

Products like Everseat stem from a culmination of these forces coupled with the growing consumer demand for access. Trends show more and more people want to become actively engaged in their own healthcare. Now patients expect to be able to research their doctors, access their own health data, or monitor symptoms quickly & easily.

The shift begins now. As Karten says, “Just as Uber has demonstrated with putting the passenger first, ignoring the patient will be fatal for health solutions companies: they will be the new taxi drivers, baffled by how the world has passed them by.”