Most great businesses are built by identifying massive industries that are wildly inefficient and ripe for disruption. Amazon was born by seeing the opportunity in online retail. Google became a tech behemoth by bringing order to the chaos of the early internet.

I believe the next world-changing company will be created by turning the mess of healthcare into a sleek, streamlined experience for consumers. Because if there’s any industry that defines massive, important and inefficient: it’s modern healthcare.

Healthcare makes up nearly a fifth of the entire U.S. economy, a staggering $4 trillion industry that is 5 times larger than the global advertising market that fuels Facebook, Google and the rest of Big Tech. Yet the patient experience — how people connect with the care they need — is still largely stuck in the last century. It’s confusing, bureaucratic and expensive. It’s optimized for insurance companies and employers rather than patients.

The smartest founders and technologists look at this morass and see immense opportunity — an opportunity to increase patient empowerment and satisfaction, to lower costs and improve outcomes, and an opportunity to build the kind of brand allegiance and seamless consumer experience that’s common in tech but unheard of in healthcare.

The patient experience needs an upgrade

As a patient visiting the doctor, have you ever even considered yourself a customer entitled to a pleasant experience?

The patient experience in healthcare usually begins in a time of need – grappling with illness or injury, often in a crowded waiting room or an even more crowded emergency room. These are moments when patients are in a vulnerable state, and in need of compassion and support. Instead, patients are met with a system that is bureaucratic, impersonal and often fails to prioritize their needs and well-being.

The language we use in healthcare reflects the problem. The term “patient” implies a passive recipient of care, not an empowered consumer entitled to service. Focusing on “patient satisfaction” sets the bar too low. In today’s consumer-centric world, healthcare providers must strive to delight their customers, exceeding expectations and providing personalized, compassionate experiences.

However, the current healthcare system is not designed with customer delight in mind. From crowded waiting rooms to rushed appointments and complex billing, the patient experience is often frustrating and inconvenient. Historically, providers have faced little consequence for delivering subpar service, as patients had limited options.

The path forward lies in making healthcare more accessible, convenient and tailored to individual needs. Just as companies like Amazon and Netflix have transformed retail and entertainment by obsessing over the customer experience, healthcare must undergo a similar revolution.

Delight customers, earn loyalty and money

A recent Accenture study indicated that healthcare organizations that prioritize patient experience have higher margins than peers. Inside every patient is a consumer – the same hearts and minds that decide to buy one clothing brand over another, or choose a car or a vacation destination from a variety of options. Healthcare has forgotten this basic truth. Not only can you create happy and healthy patients, but you can also create a healthier financial future.

A focus on the patient experience requires a new mindset and a willingness to challenge the status quo, embracing innovative approaches that put the customer at the center of every interaction.

What drives a better patient experience? Well, ask the patients! According to a Deloitte study, 4 out of the top 5 factors are related to ease of communication and scheduling – things easily achievable with better-designed technology systems.

Research shows that 7% of all Google searches are healthcare related, and that over 75% of people use search engines to start their patient journey. 94% of patients use online reviews to evaluate providers; 84% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Being deliberate about a digital strategy is critical to reaching millennial and Gen Z patient populations.

Educate to engage healthcare customers

Innovative companies like CareYaya Health Technologies are forming the new generation of patient-centric startups, leveraging AI and data to personalize care experiences. A recent study by CVS Health showed that over 80% of patients want a personalized care plan.

This is the formula for revolutionizing healthcare delivery. CareYaya is transforming homes into healing sanctuaries by deploying a nationwide community health workforce equipped with cutting-edge AI and digital health tools.

Research shows that patient education has a real impact. The NHS in the UK sent patients with Type 2 diabetes an interactive video with personalized health tips, resulting in an impressive 86% patient satisfaction rating. Just 45 minutes of patient education could improve outcomes for those with chronic conditions.

To capitalize on patients’ need for personalized care planning and education, CareYaya recently won backing from Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health to launch the first AI-powered dementia caregiver education platform.

This innovative type of human + AI care delivery has the potential to dramatically improve the patient experience and turn healthcare consumers into diehard brand fanatics.

As the central hub for a patient’s healthcare, a care marketplace can layer on additional services to further improve the experience. This is where artificial intelligence will be a key enabler and differentiator.

AI can streamline the intake process by using natural language processing to collect a patient’s symptoms and health history. It can assist doctors with diagnosis by analyzing a patient’s data against millions of other cases. It can monitor a patient’s health over time through device data and proactively reach out when an intervention is needed. In essence, AI will allow healthcare platforms to provide a level of service that was once only possible with concierge medicine, at a fraction of the price.

Companies like CareYaya are already demonstrating the power of combining AI with human-delivered care in the home setting. By training home health workers to deliver AI-powered care, such companies are enabling a fundamental shift from facility-based to home-based care.

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The biggest and most valuable consumer companies, like Amazon, start by going directly to consumers (B2C) and then later move into business/enterprise markets (B2B). In healthcare, the opportunity is to follow this same playbook — start by delighting patients and then eventually bring that experience and those insights to work with payors and providers.

Healthcare comes home

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are more open than ever to new models of care delivery that are centered around the home. Telemedicine adoption has skyrocketed, and there’s a growing recognition that many health needs can be met without setting foot in a doctor’s office or hospital.

This shift plays to the strengths of tech-enabled healthcare companies that can offer a seamless digital experience from start to finish. By contrast, many incumbent providers are still struggling to adapt their brick-and-mortar operations to a virtual-first world.

The stage is set for a new front door to healthcare to emerge, one that is more consumer-friendly, data-driven and tech-enabled than anything that exists today. The company that can execute on this vision at scale has the potential to fundamentally reshape a $4 trillion industry.

Source: CareYaya AI.

True consumerization of healthcare means:

  • Transparent and easy-to-understand pricing
  • Building services and experiences tailored to consumer needs and lifestyles
  • Focusing on convenience and accessibility by meeting consumers where they are
  • Marketing and branding that connects directly with consumers

Too often in healthcare, there is an ivory tower mentality that dismisses patient satisfaction surveys and says “let’s be clinical” as a way to ignore the human and emotional elements of care. But study after study has shown that the patient experience of care has a huge impact on health outcomes.

Building a consumer health tech giant

So what will this healthcare disruptor look like? It will likely start as a marketplace that connects consumers to a range of services, very similar to what we’ve built to date at CareYaya Health Technologies and are rapidly scaling across the country. Over time, it will layer on AI-powered tools to improve the patient experience and outcomes. It will then vertically integrate into the insurance market to align incentives and bend the cost curve.

If successful, this company will become the first stop for all healthcare needs, much like Amazon is for retail. It will have an unparalleled dataset that it uses to continuously improve its products and services. It will be a fierce advocate for its members, using its clout to negotiate better rates and improve the often disjointed experience of navigating the healthcare system.

Most importantly, it will be built with a laser focus on the consumer. It will bring the best of Silicon Valley-style product development and customer obsession to an industry that has long been dominated by B2B business models. In doing so, it will not only create immense value for shareholders, but it will also make high-quality healthcare more accessible and affordable for all.

Building a consumer health tech giant won’t be easy.

It will require navigating a complex regulatory environment, forging partnerships with entrenched players and overcoming deep-seated consumer skepticism about the role of technology in healthcare.

But for the brave entrepreneurs who are up for the challenge, the rewards could be immense. They have the opportunity to build a business that not only generates massive financial returns, but also improves the lives of millions of people around the country.

The healthcare companies that will thrive in the coming decades will be those that relentlessly focus on the customer experience. They will make booking an appointment as easy as hailing an Uber, and receiving care as convenient and comfortable as ordering from Amazon. They will use AI not just to automate backend processes, but to enhance the human connection and deliver concierge-level service at scale.

In this new era of healthcare, the patient will no longer be a passive recipient of care, but an engaged and empowered consumer. And the providers that earn their loyalty will not only improve outcomes, but also build enduring brands that transcend the traditional boundaries of healthcare.

In the coming years, we may look back at the rise of this company as a turning point in the history of healthcare, much like we now view Amazon’s impact on retail or Google’s impact on information. It will be the moment when healthcare finally caught up to the rest of the economy in putting the consumer first. The road ahead is challenging, but the rewards – for patients, providers, and society as a whole – are immense.

Editor’s Note: Neal K. Shah is the CEO of CareYaya Health Technologies, one of the fastest-growing health tech startups in America. He runs a social enterprise and applied research lab utilizing AI and human capital innovation to advance health equity through technology. Neal is a “Top Healthcare Voice” on LinkedIn with a 30k+ following, having led partnerships with top healthcare systems in America.