Spring is here, and Tax Day is almost upon us. Hopefully you’ve filed your taxes. You’re not one of those procrastinators, right?
It’s hard to miss the noise related to potential changes in healthcare and tax policy. Given all the talk on these two topics, comparisons of these two “facts of life” cannot be avoided.
Our united view: As divided as our country may be at times on these two issues, it’s easy to miss where we are united. Most people don’t enjoy doing their taxes, nor do they enjoy going to the doctor. Understand the necessity? Absolutely. Enjoy it? Likely not.
So, let’s explore our common lack of enjoyment for these two industries and dream a bit as to how these experiences could catch up to those we truly enjoy (or at least look forward to).
Access: For most people, booking an appointment with a tax pro or completing your taxes online isn’t that bad. However, finding time on your doctor’s calendar or researching the right provider for a specific ailment tends to be a bit more challenging. Once you’re in—especially if you’re the first appointment of the day—congratulations, you’re golden! If you receive any other appointment slot, be prepared to wait. Sometimes after waiting weeks and months for the appointment in the first place, you realize that you need a different specialist to help you with a problem.
Ability to figure it out on your own: Fortunately, the ability to do your taxes online has been simplified by companies like TurboTax and their proclamation, “You answer simple questions about your life. We do all the math.” The good news here is that taxes are fairly formulaic, so this approach can work. They also have online experts available for questions. On the healthcare side, when someone has a health issue, where do they turn? You guessed it – Google. Not the best idea when there are websites out there such as WebMD where you can utilize a symptom checker and online doctors to answer questions you may have. While the possibility exists in both industries to figure it out on your own, many still prefer meeting with your tax pro or doctor, eye-to-eye.
Ability to meet eye-to-eye… from your couch! When it comes to doing your taxes online, the market hasn’t dictated the need for video chat. While taxes are complicated - and no two returns are the same - they don’t have feeling or emotions (although many can admit to having wept silently and experienced a sense of loss after pushing the “file your return” button). On the other hand, the human connection in healthcare is still extremely important and virtual doctor visits are beginning to take off. Health insurance coverage is finally catching up to market demand, and several experts predict the number of virtual visits to double over the next several years. However, few physician practices have adopted virtual visits into their care delivery system and workflows. Yet some pioneers have figured this out and offer a glimmer of hope for the future of virtual medicine. For example, Kaiser Permanente performs more virtual visits than in-person office visits. Other progressive healthcare systems are dipping their toes in the world of telemedicine with a focus on improving convenience and reducing costs.
Value for the dollar and payment: Whenever paying for a service, it’s expected that you receive value in return for the money you spend. With taxes, we start with a formulaic approach set by the government. Then, each person has their own, unique opportunity to impact that approach. Fees are usually stated up front, but somehow they always seem to change (rarely decreasing) by the end of the tax meeting. However, if you receive a refund, those fees usually aren’t too hard to swallow (i.e. H&R Block – Get your billion back!). When visiting the doctor, it feels eerily similar—except you often don’t know how much your visit, tests, and procedure will cost until you receive several bills post-visit. Unfortunately, paying your medical bills is far more complicated and seems never-ending. And you don’t get money back…unless you mistakenly pay the same bill twice. Greater transparency from the healthcare system’s side—as well as simplified processes and enhanced consumer engagement—must be developed to improve the overall experience.
You receive the best possible outcomes based on data and science: The tax code itself is extremely complex (74,000 pages) and no two returns are the same. H&R Block recently took a step in the right direction by partnering with IBM’s Watson. They’ve taken H&R Block’s 60 years of experience and 600 million data points to figure out how to deliver each customer the best outcome--in most cases, a refund. In healthcare, it seems we still have an opportunity to catch up. When seeing a doctor in person, the digital data capture of that appointment has not kept up with advancements in other industries. You often check off your symptoms, review your medical history (sometimes electronically, more likely in a manila folder) and arrive at a solution that we “believe” will address the symptoms outline. The ability to use data, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics is becoming more prevalent in healthcare and will soon transform how you interact with your doctor, how hospitals are managed, and more. There are some great highlights recently mentioned on this topic by The Economist.
Looking to a better future: It seems both industries and experiences are making advancements to move up the likeability chain. Yes, potential policy reform still lingers above both industries, but ultimately improving the experience will rely more on innovation led by the public and private sectors. We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below on which experience you like the most and what these industries can do to move up your likeability list.
P.S. Just one more day left to file. Don’t miss the deadline!
Mr. Zisman leads the GE Healthcare Camden Group’s US operations team, responsible for recruiting, staffing, marketing, business development, operations and knowledge management. He also leads efforts related to 3rdparty strategic partnerships and collaboration with GE Healthcare Partners consulting businesses around the world in areas such as Canada, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. His previous roles included leading large and complex engagements focusing on improving key performance metrics such as growth, margin, quality, patient satisfaction, and sustainable results. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Krivopal is a vice president with GEHC Camden Group and an accomplished senior physician-executive with 19 years of healthcare experience across the continuum of care. Dr. Krivopal is responsible for developing and leading innovative, value-based programs addressing client needs in healthcare organizations, hospitals, and physician practices focusing on transformational system integration strategies, service line optimization, throughput and clinical leadership development. His experience spans not-for-profit and privately held organizations of various sizes as well as start-up environment in the healthcare information technology space. He may be reached at email@example.com.