The Four S's of every healthcare delivery platform

Digital Healthcare Delivery

Set, Services, Standards, and Stickiness categorize the range of components that make up the four functions (the 4 S's) of a healthcare delivery platform:

  • Set, is the equipped, supplied, and maintained space (both in-person and virtual) used by customers to provide and receive healthcare services; e.g.: hospital room, radiology equipment, medical gasses, operating room procedure trays, exam room, virtual "exam room", electronic health record, etc. and etc.
  • Services: the primary, ancillary, and auxiliary support services (that should cover them all) provided by the healthcare delivery organization to make it low-friction for customers to provide and receive healthcare services; e.g.: nursing services, sterilization, food and nutrition, matchmaking (for some; i.e., find a physician), case management, referral network, contact center, etc. and etc.
  • Standards are the explicit rules for participating and using the platform; e.g.: hospital privileges, accepted insurances, charity care policy, (I lean toward) patient consent forms, patient rights and responsibilities (especially the responsibilities part), etc. and etc.
  • Stickiness: the efforts to pull customers to the platform and turn them into repeat customers; e.g., marketing, advertising, brand building, emergency department (!), physician relations, physician employment, payer contracts (like a narrow network), community education, comprehensive one-stop-shop of healthcare services, etc. and etc.

A couple of notes:

  • The use of the phrase "customer types" is deliberate; every platform (healthcare or not) has at least two; the healthcare delivery platform's primary purpose is in bringing patients and physicians together for the transaction that is patient care.
  • That's important, in my opinion, because it requires healthcare delivery organizations to value customer types equally, one cannot be more important than the other. A successful healthcare delivery platform must have a sufficient “supply” of patients and physicians to deliver on its purpose.
  • Related, all customer types must be considered when exploring the dynamics of a healthcare delivery platform; it’s okay to focus on the Services category in the patient’s perspective, but any analysis is incomplete without including the physician’s perspective. Because!: the platform’s primary purpose is in bringing patients and physicians together.
  • I’ve focused on two customer types. But customer types aren't the only participant parties on the platform. We have (at least) partners and payers to consider, as well (but not in this post).
  • Physician employment (by healthcare delivery organizations) clouds the pure platform waters—though given physician independence, and the fact that, you know, almost nothing is revenue-producing in healthcare without a physician's signature, my belief is that it's worth thinking of physician employment as a Stickiness component (and physicians as customers) rather than as a strategic move to vertically integrate the supply chain. In other words: Think of employed physicians as customers and not employees because platforms design for customers.
  • While I've provided the emergency department as an example of Stickiness, logic holds it can also be included in Set. I'm positive of many more crossover examples.
  • One more: A platform business stands in contrast to a single-sided firm. “Single-sided firm” is a wonky way to explain a regular ol' business with one customer type. It takes raw materials, turns them into a product or service, and serves a customer. Your local pizza joint is a good example. An independent physician’s office is, too. So are many of the new-age digitally native healthcare providers. Though modern-day healthcare delivery platforms have expanded beyond the hospital, the hospital is still, in most cases, absolutely critical to what makes a healthcare delivery platform a platform.

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