HBI Deals+Insights / Healthcare Reform

How do you get patients to do what they say they will? Tastier carrots or bigger sticks?

The UK this week reported that people on long-term sick leave or classed as economically inactive has risen to 2.8 million, up 300,000 on the previous year. This statistic came fast on the heels of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest controversial speech calling for an end to the UK’s ‘sick note culture’ in a call to strip GPs of their power to sign people off work.

This story combined with my own recent physiotherapy experience got me thinking: how do you get patients to do what they say they will? 

In reality, an overstretched NHS is in part to blame for the rise with many unable to access the appropriate care needed.

This isn’t just a UK problem, it is Europe-wide. Businesses are becoming increasingly reliant and willing to spend more on private medical insurance and occupational health services to get the workforce back to work faster.

The growth drivers in these businesses combined with low-regulation and revenue models that are stable and predominantly B2B have also made it an attractive space for investors where large national and international groups are being formed. 

A few months ago I took up an extreme sport — running. Like many men my age I was hit by the sudden urge (read: life crisis) to take up running. I heard the call of the great outdoors, freedom and fresh air. I was blissfully unaware of the impending and inevitable injury heading my way. 

Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough to have access to physiotherapy via Vitality, ironically the very company that incentivised me to take up running in the first place.  

The experience was fantastic, I had an appointment the very next day, an assessment, and a set of exercises to complete. None of the waiting lists or laborious GP referral processes that I’d experienced previously. 

This was all well and good, until it came to finding time to actually do the exercises prescribed.

Naturally, the excuses cropped up at every appointment:

“How are you getting on with the exercises?”

“Great,” I lied, having done them once after the appointment reminder popped up in my calendar. 

At the appointment you get asked how the pain is. It’s always “lower”, or “better”, and so you continue this process until you get discharged and think “what was the point in that?” 

Granted, this isn’t everyone’s experience, and of course all conditions are different. However, it does highlight a fundamental challenge: healthcare practitioners have to trust that you are following their instructions and advice. 

Yes, I can pay to access something immediately, but this doesn’t change my motivation, schedule, or ability to carve out time to follow the advice I was given. 

In services where the patient is required to take control of their own journey, for example physiotherapy, obesity, addiction therapy and mental and behavioural management, it feels like delivery models are lacking a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Providers who can leverage technology to support patients will be winners, improving outcomes and getting people back to their economic potential faster, stripping out costs incurred by patients spending longer in treatment or service re-admissions.

At HBI 2024, “New models for the new era” June 10-12 we specifically look at the investment opportunities in occupational health, analysing what models will win and address how integration with primary care, PMI and tech-enablement will transform delivery and scale access.

This complements other sessions, where CEOs explore personalised patient pathways, building consumer-driven brands and the new business models arising from prevention and the effective use of data. 

You can find out more and book your tickets here

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Lee Murray or call 0207 183 3779.