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What can healthcare learn from Netflix?

Those who like their entertainment streamed directly to their devices will be well conversant with Netflix. All you need is a subscription, and a selection of the kind of entertainment you fancy. Thereafter, you can watch the selected content on-demand. Wherever you are, at the time of your choosing, and with whomever you want. Netflix’s digital library is so vast, you will always find what you want, and voluntarily pay for endless pleasure.

What’s this all got to do with healthcare? You see, both entertainment and healthcare are service industries, serving different aspects of human needs. Service industries have to interact with customers, and deliver services at the highest levels of satisfaction and convenience. Satisfied customers keep coming back, and bring others along. Even though Netflix and healthcare are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, there are inevitable intersection points that either service can model against the other.

Technology is a key driver of how Netflix delivers content. Healthcare too is driven by modern technology. But like-for-like, healthcare still lags behind in its adoption of technology, more so in developing economies like our own. Think of how much you can interact with Netflix wherever and whenever. Not so much in healthcare, even though digital platforms are already in existence to enable healthcare on-demand, wherever and whenever. Is this a self-preservation tact? Netflix disrupted the entertainment industry, enriching customers’ experiences and choices. Healthcare too is getting disrupted by technology, albeit at an undesirably slower pace.

Nobody at Netflix selects for you which movies to watch. They can make suggestions based on your streaming habits, but the eventual choice is yours alone. What about healthcare? Do you sorely select where to get your healthcare? Or are your choices influenced by the government, your insurer, or some other insurmountable obstacles? True, a direct comparison between entertainment and healthcare services isn’t fair. But our public healthcare services are deplorable, leaving little choice for the poor folk. It’s not a lack of funds going by current corruption headlines. The private sector has its own rigidity too, leaving you frustrated many a times.

Netflix has evolved over a relatively short time, just over 20 years. But healthcare has been in existence for millennia. In a short period of time, Netflix has moved on from physically delivering DVDs to direct consumer streaming. The healthcare industry too has evolved, but its pace can be accelerated for the benefit of customers. Think of all the things that your current healthcare provider can do to make your experience better. They can create an accessible health portal for ease of communications, enable remote consults, make better use of medical wearables, personalize your care to individual characteristics; and embrace more disruptive healthcare technologies.

Well, healthcare isn’t entertainment. But it can adapt to similar levels of disruptive but desirable service delivery.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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