Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 30, 2015

Five Ways the Retail Model Can Breathe Fresh Air into Healthcare


Apple. Amazon. Starbucks. Netflix. NBCU. What do these brands have to do with healthcare? Not much…but they should. These brands have set the bar for optimal customer experience and in today’s new healthcare paradigm; providers need to embrace this business model in order to succeed.

Healthcare companies need to take a page from retailer’s playbooks in order to court and keep customers in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Old business models and old IT systems aren’t allowing healthcare providers and payers to maximize one of their most important assets – their own data. Current technologies weren’t designed to handle the volume, variety and complexity of the data types of today, which prevents them from giving their customers the same experience they have come to expect from the best. Today’s retail marketplace requires both payers and providers to create customized and personalized experiences to remain competitive.

Take Starbucks for example. The company has evolved from a coffee shop into a technology powerhouse, using IT to drive revenue. Starbucks customers can download the Starbucks app and pay for drinks (and tips) with their phones. Customers can easily track their loyalty points via the app, as well as purchase gift cards.  The founders vision of Starbuck’s becoming the “third place”, the place you go after home and work, was driven by understanding and engaging customers through data driven technology. 

NBC is another company that is undergoing a transformation. The organization brought in new generation technology to power its SNL 40th anniversary app. The wildly popular app uses new generation technologies to integrate 40 year’s of disparate data, much of it unstructured, —content ranging from 5,500 sketches to emojis—and repackages that content to deliver it to eager consumers throughout the world.

One reason the app is so successful is that it recommends content to users based on their actions, and adapts to changing behavior over time, thereby delivering a highly personalized experience. For example, a fan that viewed “Samurai Chef,” will be led to other sketches that include John Belushi as well as information about the actor. Additionally, NBC can easily add new sketches and information as they are created, delivering customized and new content to its increasing customer base.

The healthcare world needs to adopt these best practices to create the same kind of customer experiences that drive loyalty and attracts new customers in the retail market. Make certain your IT infrastructure can make your data actionable now to support your business goals with the following abilities:

1) Quickly and cost-effectively manage all of your data. Many organizations struggle to wedge unstructured data (PDFs, videos, tweets, etc.), as well as structured data with different and changing schema, into relational databases that were designed exclusively to manage simple consistent structured data with rigid rows and columns. In order to make this unstructured, complex and multisource data useful, companies wind up in an endless cycle of ETL, which is costly and time-consuming, causes inertia, and can delay time to value or even kill vital projects all together. Make sure your infrastructure is designed with today’s data and business environment in mind.

2) Implement powerful search. Data is not relevant if you—providers, consumers, etc.— can’t find it. Data must be actionable as soon as it is ingested (rather than after months of staging to prepare it for analytics) in order to continue to grow audiences by delivering the right information to the right people.

3) Personalize your information. This is the critical success factor for retail and healthcare companies alike. Make sure you have the right technologies that can deliver a customizable user experience. Your IT should be able to link data and find relationships (like the SNL app) so users searching for diabetes treatments may also receive other applicable information such as diet guidelines, exercise tips and local resources and providers.

4) Protect your data and put your customers’ minds at ease. It can be difficult to straddle the line between personalization and privacy, but much less so with the right technology. Make sure your infrastructure has government-grade security to keep data safe, as well as granular access controls to ensure the right people are accessing the right information.

5) Make it enterprise-worthy. A flexible infrastructure is essential in quickly integrating data and then repurposing it in order to create revenue-driving apps and services. But not at the expense of the enterprise features you, your regulators and customers demand.  Your data needs to be highly available, retrievable (disaster recovery), resilient and consistent.

Just as in the retail world, all sales are not final in healthcare. Make the right IT call today by embracing new generation technologies that can help you innovate and out-compete in order to keep those customers and achieve your business goals.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
By Special Guest
Bill Fox, VP, Healthcare and Life Sciences, MarkLogic ,





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