“The days of the hospital as we know it may be numbered.”

Those words begin a probing Wall Street Journal article, “What the Hospitals of the Future Look Like,” which discusses major changes occur in the way hospitals service patients.

“The sprawling institutions we know are radically changing—becoming smaller, more digital, or disappearing completely,” the article notes.

At first, those kinds of statements sound ominous. But in fact, the article, which has gone viral, underscores many inevitable changes we’ve been writing about. For instance:

Decentralization of Care

The article points out some important ways in which hospitals are taking care to patients to avoid the increasingly costly experience of patients visiting emergency rooms. For instance, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York offers has developed a hospital-at-home program that treats patients for services that really don’t require an overnight stay at a hospital. As the article notes, “Mount Sinai estimates that nationally, 575,000 cases each year could qualify for such a program, and treating just 20% of those could save Medicare $45 million annually.”

Indeed, decentralization of care has been a major theme shaping our conversations with clients and the topics we’ve been discussing, and for good reason: patients, being conditioned by the on-demand services they get in other industries, are receptive to having healthcare needs met where they live and work.

So it’s no surprise that we see relationships being formed between hospitals and drug store chains to set up out-patient services in stores rather than hospitals – or hospitals providing services such as wellness check-ups and immunization shots via mobile clinics.

Focus on Wellness Care

Another interesting trend discussed in the article is an increased focus on wellness care. By helping people take better care of themselves, hospitals can cut down on the number of patients incurring costly stays. For instance as the article notes,

“In Shamokin, Pa., for example, about 50% of the population is predisposed to diabetes, mostly due to obesity, and one in three residents is considered “food insecure.” A healthier diet can lead to improvement in the disease. In a pilot program, Geisinger [Health System] established a Fresh Food Farmacy, prescribing fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, and providing them free to patients and families who need assistance, along with diabetes education, cooking tools and recipes.”

Wellness care is one of the most compelling themes shaping the future of healthcare, and providers are approaching the issue in some interesting ways. For instance, startup Forward in San Francisco provides wellness services for a monthly fee, which includes access to staff, a native app, and wearable sensors. Its state-of-the-art office contains six exam rooms and a testing lab onsite. And a number of hospitals are developing apps to help patients monitor their own health.

Recently, a core group of hospitals including Johns Hopkins Medicine agreed to work with Apple to make it possible for iPhone users to get control of their own medical records. The announcement was one of many Apple has made over the years as part of the company’s strategy to provide wellness and clinical care through its software and devices.

What Providers Should Do

These types of changes are compelling providers to rethink their fundamental promise for patient onboarding and service. If you are one of the hospitals offering new services in areas such as wellness care and decentralized treatment, now is the time to ensure that your location-based content and data are keeping pace with what you are offering. For example, if you are partnering with a retailer or pharmacy to offer decentralized services:

  • Can customers looking for, say, “flu shots near me” find you? Will your decentralized locations show up in search results especially on mobile phones?
  • Does the content on your location pages clarify what kind of services are available in these locations? Obviously, decentralized services are not for everyone. It’s important that patients understand what they can and cannot expect.

SIM Partners provides consulting, technology, and analytics to help hospitals improve the way they build and keep patient relationships locally. For more insight on how to ensure that your local presence reflects the changing nature of patient onboarding and care, contact us. We’re here to help.