Recently, we’ve seen incredible innovations in medical treatment. Technology gave us 3D printed prosthetics, image-guided surgeries, and the ability to treat rare genetic diseases. But doctors’ waiting rooms still look like something straight from the 20th century. And the processes behind the scenes are even more outdated. When it comes to accessibility, affordability, and quality, the healthcare industry lags.
Healthcare is a complicated system
In fact, Canada’s healthcare system consistently ranks last on the world stage. According to the Commonwealth Fund, this is especially true for accessibility. A 2014 report by Forbes found that Canadians waited an average of four and a half months for necessary medical treatments. This was even after referral by a general practitioner. That’s four months spent dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial burden of a treatable condition.
Another issue lies in the fragmentation of the healthcare industry. You need to see a general practitioner, pediatrician, and a specialist. That means three appointments, often at different locations on three different days. Specialist care can also mean traveling further, resulting in even more wasted time and energy.
So how did an industry founded on compassion and care become a symbol of the failing status quo?
Limited access and options
Imagine if you needed a mechanic, but the first garage you called had a four-month waiting list. Or you showed up for a meeting with a realtor, and they left you waiting in their lobby for two hours. The odds are good you’d find a different mechanic and not partner with that realtor. But when it comes to healthcare, our options tend to be more limited. For people living in rural areas, or folks without reliable transportation, the nearest hospital may be the only option. Even if they go somewhere else, they’re unlikely to find anything radically different.
That’s because, over the years, the healthcare industry has had little incentive to change
Healthcare is a crucial part of life—nobody can go without it. Because there will always be a demand, hospital administrators have dictated the terms and quality of the supply. For years, there has been little disruption or competition. That’s where virtual health startups come into play. Startups specialize in disrupting the status quo and creating opportunities. Online pharmacies, telemedicine apps, digital health records increase accessibility and transparency. They also shift the focus to patient-centered care and convenience.
Patients, after all, are like any other consumer—they want a good product, at a reasonable price, that’s easy to use. Virtual health startups are leveling the playing field and holding traditional healthcare accountable.
Do you work Monday to Friday from 9-5? You better hope your doctor’s office is open on the weekends. Couldn’t get in to see someone about that sore throat? Now you’re spending twice as much money at an urgent care clinic. Treatment options have been limited by location, doctor availability, and clinic hours for too long.
Virtual health startups are breaking away from the traditional clinic model of medicine. Apps and sites like Lumeca allow patients to see their doctor from anywhere, anytime. Plus Lumeca connects patients with specialists they might not have access to otherwise. Traditional clinics have noticed how effective better accessibility can be. In fact, many now offer telemedicine or partner with third-party telehealth providers.
Insurance companies. Administrative systems. Government policies. Oh my. Sometimes, healthcare feels impossible to navigate. Many virtual health startups have noticed. They’re focused on simplifying the process and increasing transparency. Virtual health gives patients more control over their records. Apps and websites also provide valuable education tools.
Virtual platforms also let doctors, specialists, and patients communicate more easily. Thanks to online patient portals, information can be shared and managed in seconds. This simplifies the referral process and connects medical teams to discuss complex or sensitive cases.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re just a name in the system. In fact, patients often feel that doctors treat them like a number, not a person. According to one study, this is especially true for those with chronic pain and chronic illness. Virtual health startups empower patients to manage their care on their own terms. As the Harvard Business Review writes, virtual healthcare lets patients become more engaged. Personalized options are increasingly replacing one-size-fits-all care services.
The rise of virtual health startups
Today’s patients are more informed than ever before. They also have more options when it comes to seeking medical care. As technology continues to evolve, virtual health startups are poised to disrupt the industry’s outdated models of care. For clinics to succeed, they’ll need to work to provide more accessible, personalized care.