As the parent of a child with a disability, I have been faced with the dilemma of identifying medical and clinical experts to help my child and my family over the past two decades. It is true that my son is an adult at this point but there is also a reality that his specialized needs have not changed just because he is older. Families who are faced with either medical or clinical crises have long term needs that are presently not being met by insurance companies and the existing health care system. This is not just a problem in the United States, it is a world wide issue for consumers searching for specialists and experts to meet their health care needs. If you have medical insurance then you are provided with the standard health care directory which gives you name, address and telephone number. If you have access to the internet and the time to do an online search you can certainly find more detailed information about clinical practitioners. The problem that I see is that there needs to be a centralized data base of information which is much more comprehensive than the existing Blue Cross Blue Shield medical directory.
As a consumer, what would you want to know about a medical or clinical practitioner? Many people that I interviewed indicated that they wanted more personalized information about therapeutic practices, techniques, and procedures. Over 50% of the people interviewed, indicated that they wanted some background information concerning educational training and published research. A smaller percentage was also interested in information concerning the practitioner’s personal interests and beliefs about patient care. My generalized sense was that consumers wanted to know about the more personal side of the physician or therapist who would potentially be taking care of them. To me, this highlights the importance of the interpersonal relationship between the practitioner and the client creating a working alliance which provides the frame work for clinical care. Most consumers want to feel not only cared for but cared about. So, the more comprehensive the information provided to consumers about their practitioners, the more comfortable people feel about the choices they make. What kind of a choice do you have when the information you are provided with involves only name, address and telephone number?
Healthcare on the internet is going to explode within the next five years. Consumers are addicted to information and some internet businesses are capitalizing on the growing trends within the healthcare industry. Understand that healthcare represents one of the largest sectors in federal, state and local budgets. Within healthcare, mental health services will continue to grow at an increasing rate given longer and healthier lifestyle trends in the baby boom population. It is clear from the research data collected by healthcare professionals that mental health is a key component to physical longevity. The growth of services within the area of gerontology highlights the increasing needs of consumers who are living, working and playing longer.
There will be great opportunity for investment in businesses which are internet based and focus on healthcare information for consumers. For example, Theramatch Registry is an interactive online service directory highlighting licensed professionals in communities throughout the United States. If you cannot find a mental health practitioner, someone from Theramatch will help you. A real person will actually get back to you in real time. The Theramatch Directory is the wave of the future and Blue Cross Blue Shield along with other healthcare providers would exercise good business sense by linking up with this kind of internet business. In addition, from a public relations point of view most consumers do not have a positive opinion of their healthcare providers. Consumers feel that insurance companies are not honest and forthcoming given many bad experiences with claims reimbursement. It would help the insurance industry to promote information about medical care and clinical providers for consumers. Helping consumers make clinical choices would change the image of the insurance industry.
Finally, as a parent of a child with disabilities, I have always traveled to find the right specialist. At times of crisis most people will search and travel to connect a loved one with the best possible practitioner. For the poor, the hospitalized, and the physically disabled, Theramatch Registry can also reduce barriers such as distance and weather. There are many communities where the access to service providers is very limited. With internet healthcare services, a soon to be reality will be telehealth by computer, television and cell phone. The technological advances are around the corner. Theramatch Registry is the future of the healthcare industry. So check out this site for your family and email your friends with the information. Someone is always looking for a mental health specialist.
Ellenmorris Tiegerman, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
School for Language and Communication Development
100 Glen Cove Avenue
Glen Cove, NY 11542