As either a patient or a consumer, what are the most acute pain points you feel in your interactions and engagements with the healthcare system?

Some of the most acute, yet crucial, pain points typically happen when we first meet our doctor. If the process is difficult or the conversation feels closed off from the start, it can trigger us and our doctors to implicitly lean more into our emotions, such as guardedness or uncertainty. As a result, we may hold back important information that can be helpful for our provider to know. — Monisha Ahluwalia, strategy director Humancare

One of the major pain points is a lack of individualized knowledge based on limited time for insight-gathering between physician and patient. The patient most likely has 20 things to share, questions to ask that could help with the holistic understanding of their wellness and health issues, but the physician has their own templated Q&A and may spend the entire time working through their list before ever getting to the real challenges. — Cheryl Maher, managing director, Ritual

It’s hard to establish a rapport, much less a relationship, when every time I see my primary care physician it feels like I’m on the clock. There is no time to meander in the conversation and barely enough time to ask the questions I came in with. — Michael Austin, chief experience officer, ConcentricLife

As a patient, the experience is an opaque one when it comes to what we can expect to pay for a specialty doctor visit, a trip to the pharmacy, a hospital visit (haven’t we all been surprised by those phantom charges from the anesthesiologist).  This can be frightening for many who are on a fixed income and are forced to choose between paying for health care or the health care of a dependent versus other necessities.  Price transparency in the health care system would go a long way in supporting physician prescribing decisions, patient therapy abandonment and adherence, plus overall improved access to health care. 

One of the biggest challenges I see is the shortage of qualified medical professionals. Due to aging populations, people living longer lives and better management of chronic diseases, workforce shortages have been created for home healthcare workers.  There is a high demand and a continued predicted physician shortage as working physicians will retire and many graduates of medical school are moving to enter specialized fields which pay more than general practitioners who see the most patients.  This will be especially acute in rural and underserved populations.   This can lead patients to avoid going to the doctor unless they are experiencing extremely severe circumstances, and waits can be very long when they experience wait times of months. — Maria Kirsch, general manager, patient services, Eversana

The greatest pain point is a lack of connectivity between health care professionals and their systems.  The process of sharing, transferring, and connecting the dots across disparate medical records is an impossible task left to the consumer.  In addition, healthcare professionals are starved for time, which often leads to rushed patient visits, as they are bogged down with administrative paperwork, economic pressure to run their business, and many are just burnt out.  And lastly, the lead time to book an appointment with a specialist is extensive, and in many cases, those visits are important and urgent.  The patient is left either to choose a less qualified doctor or wait months to receive the best care. — Amanda Powers-Han, chief marketing officer, Greater Than One

It’s not geared towards making the experience for patients/consumers easy. It does the opposite of serve patients. It feels like everything is set up and organized to make the office more efficient, or the billing more accurate, or to cover-off on physician liability, or to stay within insurance company mandates, or to maximize profit/minimize time, effort and money spent by the healthcare system. The system exists to prop up the system – it doesn’t exist to help or serve patients.  I avoid interacting with the healthcare system as much as possible because it’s so unpleasant.  That’s why I haven’t been to my PCP in over two years. — Mary Rose Burnham, EVP, strategy lead, brand and medical, Greater Than One

As a primary caregiver for an aging parent with a chronic illness, it wasn’t until my 90-year-old mother faced a real health crisis that one of the most acute pain points within the system became crystal clear. 

Though armed with over two decades of healthcare knowledge, I was overwhelmed juggling the different providers and services required for my mother’s health situation—hospitals, rehab, in-home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, visiting nurses, primary care doctors, specialists and ambulance transport. Communicating and interacting with them all was even more challenging because none of them were connected, even those within the same network. While I knew provider connectivity was a challenge, its enormity and potential impact previously escaped me. I experienced this first-hand as I had to be the conduit between my mother’s hospital, PCP, rehab facility, visiting nurse and PT/OT. The onus is on the patient/caregiver to connect the dots for everyone.

Even with the advent of electronic health records and electronic medical records, we still haven’t found an ideal way to allow systems to talk to each other. The fact that both of these terms exist but can’t be used interchangeably is a good example of a system where the value has yet to be realized. — Edie DeVine, EVP, global medical and health technology lead, GCI Health

The lack of transparency contributes to patients’ health deteriorating despite being in the care of a provider. Years of unnecessary suffering hampers the ability to make a meaningful, lasting impact on patients’ lives as a condition progresses.

My dad suffered from COPD and received a diagnosis years after his symptoms began. He made excuses early and wasn’t always upfront with his doctor, which ultimately delayed his treatment—treatment that could have helped him enjoy his life, see his grandchildren grow into adulthood, and led to him living a better, longer life. — Diann Hamilton, EVP, account planning, Digitas Health

Patients have infrequent interactions with healthcare providers throughout the course of a year. They are responsible for managing their health, which includes tasks such as managing medications, monitoring conditions, changing their lifestyle, coping with stress, navigating healthcare, and paying for it. This can be challenging to handle independently. As an industry, our role, amidst a highly fragmented healthcare ecosystem, is to serve as a trusted advisor to the patient, to help them understand their diagnosis and treatment options and navigate to the right healthcare providers. — Mark Miller, managing director, Deloitte Digital

Patients feel unseen and ‘genericized’ instead of as unique human beings with unique health needs. They lack the support they want, the way they want and when they want it.

Infrequent interaction with and access to HCPs puts the burden on the patient to care for themselves. On top of coping with the stress of an illness, patients may have to manage multiple medications at once and take them all correctly, monitor their conditions and be alert to changes (improvements, deteriorations), adjust their diet, or increase their level of physical activity. 

Above all, patients have to deal with high costs and difficulty navigating the complex ecosystem of healthcare providers, payers, pharma manufacturers and pharmacists. — Joanna Ruiz, managing director, Deloitte Digital

As healthcare-services consumers, we emerged from the pandemic feeling a range of mixed emotions. The rise of telehealth, particularly valuable in the rural areas, gave a glimpse of improved accessibility and healthcare provided on-demand. It offered immediacy and safety many craved. However, having re-engaged with the world on the more direct physical terms, we all pine for a personal touch, empathy of a healthcare provider who knows our history, “gets us”. In the world filled with the talk about “personalized experiences”, we find our healthcare less and less personal, taxing and less attainable when it comes to the quality of the interactions we craved to go back to. The delivery of health services is in a liminal space, disturbingly different and confusingly similar, while ripe with opportunity for improved customer experience. As hospital systems grow into the health-delivery conglomerates, focusing the design of their services on human centricity is key. — Katya Petrova, chief business officer, Juice Pharma Worldwide

As either a patient or a consumer, some of the most significant pain points experienced during interactions and engagements with the healthcare system arise from the increasingly impersonal nature of care, the complexity of navigating services, and the growing gap between expectations and reality. While the advent of telehealth has indeed expanded access to medical care, it has also emphasized the need for human-centric, compassionate care that acknowledges the uniqueness of each individual’s health journey. As healthcare systems continue to evolve and expand, striking a balance between efficiency and personalized care remains a pressing challenge that influences patient satisfaction and overall well-being. — Chris Ozanian, chief experience officer, Juice Pharma Worldwide

As a healthcare professional in the market access space, it can still be quite eye-opening to me when I’m interacting within the healthcare system as a patient. The key pain points I have experienced include a lack of coordinated care, minimal or miscommunication of information, and confusing insurance policies. 

Just recently, I was prescribed medication that required prior authorization (PA). The pharmacy contacted my physician’s office to request the PA from my insurance company, but after three weeks, the PA still hasn’t been resolved. After numerous unsuccessful calls to both my pharmacy and physician’s office trying to reach a resolution, the lack of coordinated care and miscommunication between the office, pharmacy, and insurance company led to a great deal of frustration and ultimately an unfulfilled prescription. 

Insurance policies and billing are highly complex and even with experience working in this industry, I find myself spending a significant amount of time contacting my providers and insurance company regarding coverage policies and unclear billing. My experiences have magnified the gaps within our current healthcare system and paints a picture on how the average patient can find themselves lost amongst the vast ecosystem of healthcare complexities. — Reta Mourad, director, strategic planning, Mosaic Group

Coordination and continuity of care remain a challenge when engaging with the health care system. Despite the promise of electronic health records (EHRs) as a solution to fragmented care, several factors impact the effectiveness of these platforms from a patient perspective—in turn, driving poor patient experience.

A health system network works well when a patient can have all health care team members within that same network. However, as I and many others have experienced, the network I’m in does not offer high-quality care across specialties. For example, my network may have an incredible neurology practice, but cardiology is better elsewhere. Those primary care physicians who seek the best care for their patients send patients like me to practices that offer the highest quality of care. So, when 1 or 2 specialty groups for my treatment are out of network, what does that mean?

It means I—the patient—must somehow bridge those gaps. As several of our health care key opinion leaders have stated, “if you’ve seen 1 EHR system, then you’ve seen 1 EHR system.” The systems are customized for each network and not compatible with other networks. They do not integrate with each other in any way, forcing me to advocate for my own care—hunting down additional support and referrals. This burden adds stress to any patient already run down from battling a medical issue. A solution that allows for a positive and more seamless patient experience is greatly needed. — Nancy Codoner, director of market access, McCann Health Managed Markets

While we like to think we are all rational decision-makers, most of our decisions are rooted in emotions and biases – especially during those moments where we need to see a doctor. It requires a level of vulnerability and trust that is unrequired anywhere else. That’s why some of the most acute, yet crucial, pain points typically happen when we first meet our doctor. If the process is difficult or the conversation feels closed off from the start, it can trigger us and our doctors to implicitly lean more into our emotions, such as guardedness or uncertainty. As a result, we may hold back important information that can be helpful for our provider to know. — Monisha Ahluwalia, strategy director, Humancare

Two recurring healthcare system pain points often cited by patients include limited time with HCPs and the fragmentation of care. 

Patients and physicians agree that there isn’t enough time for care, yet 90 percent of patients feel that a good relationship with their doctor is the most important element of a quality health care system. Lack of time with HCPs has a cascading effect; it may also lead to lack of information, little trust and healthcare decisions that may feel unsteady. 

When it comes to the fragmentation of care, PCPs, specialists, payers and systems are often not connected and patients may feel left to their own devices to navigate the “in-between” challenges that arise as they go. 

Both of these challenges pose the need for patient services that create links between appointments, touchpoints and systems. These bring a sense of steadiness through moments of transition that can make all the difference in a patient’s healthcare experience. — Daniela Carrasco, director, experience design strategy, YuzuYello

I am a migraine patient, so my neurologist is one of the most important people in my life. I am always in awe of how knowledgeable she and her office staff are about new treatment coverage, coverage shifts, knowing when to send me home with samples because of anticipated high OOP costs, issues companies have with coupons or co-pay assistance programs, etc. When it comes to my insurance company, and managing drugs from multiple specialty pharmacies, that gets very complicated – my month is never as simple as a prescription refill. They’re assessing what I am entitled to, when, how many pills per Rx, over and over and over…it’s exhausting.  If my doctor wasn’t a 5 min walk away with endless reps dropping off samples to hold me over at times, I would either be paying thousands of dollars out of pocket or suffering and missing out on a lot.

Pain point:

  • Lack of accountability on the access side for communicating changes, updates, that may significantly impact treatment


  • Precision/customized treatment plan – not a one size fits all monthly coverage (for example for some drugs ~9 pills a month are covered) and communications
  • Proactive management in collaboration with patient + physician + drug company coupon/copay programs
  • Concierge type assistance that can help a patient understand how to manage from doc through picking up Rx: issue/diagnosis  treatment options in a landscape that is constantly evolving  ensuring coverage of a medication a patient knows works for them and receiving automatic refills each month

— Amanda Eckel, BGB Group, SVP, client partnership and innovation

For me, the most acute pain points as a patient (or patient caregiver/advocate) are often those related to navigating the multiple layers of automation within a healthcare system (online platforms, call center prompts, etc.) before ever reaching a human. While automation can often make processes more efficient, I empathize with the elderly and others who don’t have access to or experience with technology. I see this frustration first-hand with my independent 93-year old mother, who still wants to connect with a live person related to her healthcare needs (for appointments, test results, etc.) and that is not often a simple task. Having access to an informed and trusted health advocate (family, friend, or public service) is so important for optimal outcomes and experiences. — Maryellen Royle, group president, communications, Evoke

It can feel like I’m just riding a conveyor belt on an assembly line with how busy physicians and practices are today.  A nurse quickly checks my vitals and asks a few canned questions.  Then I see the doctor, who asks me some questions while staring at an iPad, does a quick examination, and without hesitation writes me a script. I want to ask questions, but the physician already has one foot out the door. It’s easy to feel like I’m just getting the same quick fix as everyone else.

Of course, this kind of rushed, one-size-fits-all care is not always the case, but even the most empathetic and well-meaning physicians can fall prey to shuffling patients along when they are staring down a full day of back-to-back appointments. For patients like me, the healthcare experience often feels too transactional. My condition affects my entire life, and it doesn’t always feel like healthcare professionals truly grasp or appreciate that. Yes, I know you treat people with this same condition all the time, but I’m not going to have confidence in a solution if it feels like it’s the same thing you do for everyone else.

Whether you’re a physician or marketing therapeutics to patients it’s important to see the patient as a person first. Even if a group of patients have the same disease, each patient has a unique set of feelings and life circumstances that will impact their treatment decisions. At Evoke MicroMass we use our decades of behavioral science expertise to design programs that not only educate patients about product benefits, but that acknowledge the unique psychosocial needs of each patient to influence real, positive behavior change to achieve our clients’ goals.

We help patients feel like they aren’t just along for the ride by speaking directly to what they are truly feeling and by giving them the resources they need to make positive behavior changes. We empower patients to jump off the healthcare conveyor belt and take the next step in their treatment journey that’s right for them. — Rosanne Johnson, president, Evoke MicroMass

As a caregiver to a patient with a chronic illness, we have had consistent issues getting enrolled or re-enrolled in various specialty pharmacies. After job changes and insurance changes, or simply re-enrolling in programs associated with our manufacturer and specialty pharmacy year after year, we find ourselves dreading the process. Due to the long, complicated enrollment process, we have been delayed receiving needed medication. — Kaley Wagner, managing director, client operations, CrowdPharm

Overall, I feel like my body is treated as a number of different pieces vs. a holistic unit and operating system. I understand, appreciate, and desire specialty care (psychiatry, chiropractic, podiatry, gastroenterology as examples), but feel like very seldom do those specialty practitioners think about how all the pieces fit together, or ask about my body’s state outside of their specialty. In addition, it seems far too challenging to get those practitioners to communicate with one another to provide the best, proactive and holistic care. 

Even more important, as I take a further step back from myself, I recognize my ability to receive specialized care in the first place is a privilege. So while, yes, I want to be treated holistically as a human with a mind that impacts my physical state and a physical state that impacts my mind, what I struggle with most is that even receiving care feels like a privilege – from basic access to education and knowledge – healthcare can feel really far away and/or too difficult to engage with for many people. 

The biggest pain point I have felt as a patient has been feeling like “just a number” to my provider. Being in such a vulnerable relationship as the one between patient and provider, you want to feel like the person examining you knows who you are on a personal level. — Shannon Bresnahan, brand supervisor, Connelly Partners Health

In my own experience, there continues to be little to no correlation between how the system provides care for physical wellness and mental wellness, despite the science that shows how connected they are. In all of my experiences, there are two distinct systems and they rarely overlap. As a patient, I may get referred to a mental health therapist by my PCP but there is no one care provider who is over-seeing my TOTAL care and REALLY taking everything into account. My medical profile is not inclusive of all of the care providers I am seeing (unless they happen to be part of the same practice). As such, my care feels disjointed and I fear there are missed opportunities in identifying potential correlations and/or conflicts. — JoAnne Borselli, group brand director, Connelly Partners

Finding time for an in-person appointment. Scheduling services for virtual appointments are great and are obviously being prioritized after COVID, but I’ve been trying to schedule an in-person appointment with a primary care provider for over a year now without success. I’ve had offices never return my calls, consistently delay my in-person appointments, and even host a virtual appointment with promise of an in-person appointment afterwards to check in more detail, which was never scheduled despite my follow-ups. I’m struggling to understand why I need tenacity when finding healthcare in order to have my health observed in-person at a location that’s relatively close to me, for issues that Doctors have explicitly told me they need to see me in person for, yet don’t follow through. — Will Maslach, paid social manager, Connelly Partners

I’ve been incredibly fortunate, for the most part. But one issue that really does cause problems for me is when physicians and their staff members burnout, causing a great deal of turnover and confusion. It takes a long time to build a good relationship with a provider and when you lose one it’s problematic and may cause delays in care. I’ve experienced this multiple times recently. — Michele Hart-Henry, managing director, Connelly Partners Health

During my experience as a patient, I encountered several inconveniences tied to the lack of information we received about my medical diagnosis. Although the healthcare professionals we interacted with had experience with similar diagnoses, my wife and I felt as though we were being treated as if we had gone through this before. 

We were concerned about the potential side effects of the prescribed medication. We asked a series of questions about the procedures and the purpose of each drug. Although the doctor provided us with some information, we were hoping for a more comprehensive document that we could take home to better understand the drug’s effects on my body. — Ricardo Paredes, SVP, associate creative director, Entrée Health

The most critical pain points with healthcare systems are the financial responsibilities and the patient burden of navigating it. You can have a fantastic relationship with your care team, but groups manage financial follow-ups without connection to the patients. Additionally, these touchpoints often happen after the visit. The social workers on my care team are vital to helping me navigate my financial support options, but they can be left out of conversation once bills are sent to hospital collections. The disconnection in these processes can be confusing, frustrating, and burdensome. — Caitlin Lombardi, VP, account supervisor, Entrée Health

I have watched the experience of those suffering from chronic diseases or conditions that require care from multiple specialists often concomitantly.   The result can be that a patient receives confusing and, sometimes, conflicting advice and about their care. There is no roadmap about how to navigate the advice from these healthcare professionals. This can be especially confusing to older people and those with limited health literacy. We need to add a “care-quarterback” to our job roster in health to coordinate care and ensure compliance. — Fern Lazar, managing partner, global health practice leader, Finn Partners

Without a doubt, the most frustrating part of our healthcare system is how reactive and fractured it is. Healthcare providers spend years specializing in treating ailments in specific parts of the body—which means they are a mile deep but an inch wide in treating (not preventing) symptoms in a single area of the body. However, the human body is interconnected in every way, so when acute or even chronic disease develops, it is likely the interaction of multiple parts of your body that are contributing to disease. As a result, treatment is often reactive and myopic, and unable to account for this interconnectedness of the human body.  This contributes to delays in diagnosis and worsening of illness leading to suboptimal outcomes. Further, this fractured understanding begets fractured communication—with little to no communication between a patient’s healthcare providers—contributing to delays in diagnosis and a suboptimal short-mid to long-term treatment plan. Additionally, an integrative approach to functional medicine is often not covered under health insurance plans, as payer groups do not yet understand the value that these approaches can bring. This pushes integrative physicians to not accept health insurance, and leaves patients who are chronically ill and in desperate need of a different approach footing the bill entirely. — Janeese Carter, principal consultant, BW Consulting

Lack of access to my primary care physician means I have taken greater ownership of my own health outcomes.  That in part must be a good thing but it does concern me in terms of missing early diagnosis of something like cancer. — Gavin Jones, global patient centricity lead, Open Health

Lack of systems that talk to each other, this heightens the need for multiple explanations and duplication of effort in terms of current plan, medication and test requests (U.K. perspective) — Marie Keetley, global business development, Open Health

  1. Not having a unified patient portal platform – in the absence of this, patient portals need to be able to sync with each other allowing different specialists to access records/reports as needed
  2. Having an easier process to designate a caregiver to have access to all medical information (particularly helpful for older patients)
  3. Better system in place to remind and schedule annual visits; ability to schedule visits online!!!
  4. Lack of resources to help patients (eg, tailored disease education booklets; pill schedule calendar, especially in cases of polypharmacy)

— Nancy Sladika, president (U.S. operations), Nucleus Holdings

That there is still a fundamental disconnect between my data – be it medical history or even recently received lab results – and the decision-making and context my primary care physician is using when engaging with me for any diagnoses. I am often forced to physically print out lab results from a portal that my own doctor has access to (i.e., EHR) and take to the office for interpretation. Furthermore, “digital” is often touted and evangelized by vendors and providers alike in the healthcare industry as a new dawn for patient care, but the fact remains that many physicians – especially those approaching retirement age – are still lacking the core skills needed to engage on and render valuable these digital tools. — Martin Jones, marketing director, Underscore

I should start by acknowledging that I’m one of the lucky ones – good insurance and great networks of providers all around me.  That said, I’ve been trying to schedule an appointment with my primary care doctor for almost a month.  Despite being part of a huge network, they don’t schedule online and never pick up the phone when I call. They do have an online portal and I was able to request a prescription refill — but that request was denied because I’m overdue for an appointment. — Nigel Downer, SVP, head, Jack Health U.S.

I see the disconnect between physicians and patients in both my personal and professional life every day. In consumer science, we strive to make genuine connections between HCPs and their patients, empowering both groups to embrace the science and to improve their well-being. If HCPs don’t have the proper educational materials to share the science, the patient suffers. In my experience, I believe HCPs can alleviate the frustrations of complex science in the following ways:

  1. HCPs need to be aware of what their patients do or don’t know—and what society is telling them. They should stay abreast of the trends affecting their field and be informed of the white space if there are areas where medicine is currently falling short. Being knowledgeable about the disease landscape, potential treatment options (or lack of) and research opportunities can help ease patient anxiety surrounding a diagnosis; and painting the full picture for the patient can empower them to make informed decisions during their journey.  
  2. HCPs must know how to talk to their patients about the science. It’s important to not only understand a patient’s diagnosis but also to be prepared for the questions they may have. Answers that don’t resonate with consumer reality will always fall short, and inevitably, will negatively affect the patient and their relationship with the HCP.
  3. HCPs should be aware of the available, credible resources at their fingertips. With the rise of the empowered patient, HCPs are often asked about additional resources, or even more, they’re aware their patient is heading home to do more research on their own. Sharing reputable, relevant resources at the onset can help guide patients to safe, credible information that you know you can trust as a practitioner.

Our consumer science practice at Spectrum works with HCPs on a daily basis—whether it’s business-to-business (B2B) or direct-to-consumer (DTC) initiatives. Through a strategic communications approach, our teams work alongside consumer brands to understand the important relationships between HCPs and their patients and how both groups can benefit from the brand’s offerings and its rigorous science. As nuanced as it may be, understanding these conversations is a crucial step in ensuring that everyone is connected to their best “healthlife.” — Robyn Wellikoff, SVP, consumer science, Spectrum Science

As a mom in a household that requires a life-saving medication, filling prescriptions is way too stressful. We’ve been told just to go to the ER if the pharmacy can’t fill a prescription due to a system glitch. — Lindsay Denietolis, account supervisor, JPA Health

Our system creates a lot of anxiety for people with cancer. With the implementation of the Cures Act, patients now get immediate access to test results as soon as they are available. However, patients may have to wait weeks to discuss the results with their oncologist. — Ken Deutsch, head of research and insights, JPA Health

I wish we had more time in appointments to truly build a relationship with a provider. I go in knowing an appointment will only last 15 minutes and be focused on illness, rather than a conversation about my overall health and well-being. — Melissa Zuckerman, SVP, JPA Health

Most of the automated systems that exist today to get people to the right place are too clunky and cumbersome to be useful. With the pace of advances in natural language processing and AI, it’s time for a major upgrade. — Adam Pawluk, chief client officer, JPA Health

Lack of clarity and integration with my healthcare providers is a continual struggle. Even when seeking treatment within the same system, and often within the same specialty, I constantly find myself having to articulate with my provider the treatment and care plan outlined by someone else within their team. Every interaction feels like square one placing the burden on me as the patient to guide my own care. This leaves me with a sense of skepticism that I’m following the right care path and an anxiety that I haven’t asked the right questions to open the right doors to my care. — Siera Lyons, account supervisor, Schaefer Advertising

It’s the little things that create the biggest frustrations. For all the talk in the industry about patient-centricity, the experience is light years from that ideal. Take the simple act of intake. For a primary Internist that I see a minimum of two times a year, complete duplicative paperwork every time I set foot in the office is, at best, inconvenient, and at worst the gateway to larger errors. I’m not expecting Amazon-level efficiency, but having me verify the account information I’ve given you 10 times in the last 5 years rather than provide it for the 11th time would be a great start. — Jake Yarbrough, managing director, Schaefer Advertising

The ability to interact with my healthcare team through multiple channels is important to me. Before the pandemic, it was easy to ask a quick question via the patient portal, but now that has changed; to ask questions, I need to communicate via phone, which sometimes requires multiple calls, messages etc. — Sarah Bast, EVP, investment marketplace, Publicis Health Media 

I feel the lack of care coordination and communication among physicians treating a patient with multiple comorbidities is a major pain point for patients and caregivers. Not all healthcare systems are created equal and when you have a patient, particularly those with a life-threatening disease such as cancer, it’s all the more important that the care team are aligned on an individualized treatment plan and communicate those plans with the patient and nurse navigator supporting them. — Jocelyn Ochinang, director of consumer and marketing intelligence analytics, Rapp

Doctor appointments feel very scripted, and often I feel like my concerns aren’t given enough weight as to the impact on my life. — Dawn Siegel, account director, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness 

As someone who appreciates the intent (if not always the letter) of regulation, I want to have patience for the pinch points in our convoluted health care delivery system. As a single working mother, I have none. There is a nationwide shortage of ADHD medication, something my college sophomore has relied on for years. After a week chasing the medication without success, my smart daughter suggested I try Boston Children’s (she’s in New York and we can’t transfer the prescription without having her re-diagnosed by a psychiatrist). The Rx was called into the CVS at Children’s, but they were out. “Who has some?” I pleaded. The CVS two blocks away, they told me, but they only had 30 pills, I needed to move fast. However, they were unable to transfer the Rx, as it’s a controlled substance. Trying to make it all happen via phone was a gamble. I went physically to the doctor’s office and got a hard copy of the Rx, and then waited an hour for it to be filled and then mailed it (illegally) to my daughter in NYC.  Of course, I paid for it to be delivered the next day, but she failed to pick it up right away – because she has ADHD. In the era of big data, why can’t our payers and providers ascertain those who are consistent and compliant with their medications? Why do we have to jump through the same hoops over and over to stay healthy? — Deborah Lotterman, chief creative officer, Precisioneffect

I know that the physician and nurse shortage has placed tremendous strain on practicing medical professionals, but appointments feel very transactional. Because physicians are racing from patient to patient, there’s very little time to ask questions or bring up things that are bothering you. — Kara Bissonnette, manager of growth and business development, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness 

As a patient, navigating the intersections of the healthcare system can be incredibly frustrating.  Particularly when a diagnosis is not straightforward as many cancers and rare diseases present.   When my mom was hospitalized with a liver issue of unknown origin or when I had some symptoms that wouldn’t go away but didn’t quite fit together, we had multiple specialists tell us they didn’t know what it was for either of us and weren’t sure what specialty we should see next. Really? It was just such a moment of frustration as we sought to get care for our medical conditions. We both finally found healthcare providers who took time, tenacity and some persistence. Not to mention, dealing with the insurance side of things. We need to make it easier. Patient advocates are needed as a standard for medical care. Navigating the healthcare system is something that this industry can really make easier for patients like ourselves, friends and family. — Cynthia Meehan, EVP, account management, Ogilvy Health

The primary pain point is transparency around costs. With today’s insurance, you work to ensure that any procedure (or even specialist visit) is covered as “within network.” Too often the average person (like me) will ultimately find that while the primary provider is within network, they are working with other specialists who charge “out of network.” It’s infuriating. Worse, there is absolutely no accountability within the system. Providers feel too nervous to ever give total commitment to everyone with whom they work (e.g. the anesthesiologist) and it’s not till the user/consumer gets the bill that they will know what they actually owe. Moreover, today’s flex plans are often managed by outsourced companies located overseas with staff whose English is subpar, and just as often have terrible phone connections. So the flex plan you’ve already paid into will not fight you for every receipt you enter for repayment. The system creates a ricochet of mistrust that echoes down to the Provider. It’s awful. However much branding agencies can create ads that promise seamlessness, the system is a hornet’s nest. And everyone who needs a medical procedure in America dreads what the outcome will mean financially.

The second issue is trust in medical science. The pharma companies promise convenience and results but they do little to educate us on the actual science behind their solutions. On top of that, they fail to engage with any vigor to stand up to the other hornet’s nest in the system – a web of conspiracy theories that suggest that there is nothing legitimate about “big pharma.” If the larger pharma companies would actually offer some transparency of their own – admit to the huge profits they are making yet give some deeper accountability – versus hiding behind a mantra of always doing good – well, they might start to engage the American public in an honest conversation about value. Big pharma – like big oil – usually acts in reaction to criticism. There are people with great integrity and vision within big Pharma. There are also people – unfortunately – with a philosophy that their only mission is around profit – however much they misconstrue the public. In truth, big pharma is in collaboration with public funding – whether through tax relief or public grants. Rather than fighting the public for more transparency, real leadership within big pharma will emerge when it admits its debt to the public as well as the public debt to it.

Here’s a value point worth celebrating. Pharmacies. Whether it’s CVS or Walgreens, they have done a fairly good job of meeting needs around communities, both in delivering prescriptions in a timely manner or offering value-added services like health clinics. In fact, if there’s one institution that has been surprisingly responsive to “consumer need” it has been the community pharmacies via big brands like CVS, Walgreens and even Walmart. The fact that there’s a real human being behind a counter is awfully reassuring. And their personnel seem empowered to help people whether it’s with coupons that save money around prescriptions or just providing good service. — Liz Kane, chief strategy officer, Ogilvy Health

The biggest issue I feel as a patient is that because of specialization it is sometimes hard to find a doctor who can tell you what is actually wrong with you. As an example, my mother was having pain in her back. She made an appointment with a back doctor, which took 6 weeks to get. When she finally got there, the doctor said: “I think it could be your hip, but I don’t do hips, only backs…” So, my mom had to go back to the drawing board and wait for an appointment with a hip doctor. It took months to get her a proper diagnosis and treatment. There was nobody to help her get the right X-ray or the right diagnosis because every doctor only specialized in one area. — Cara Levinson, SVP, planner, Ogilvy Health

Despite the promise of “connectedness” within healthcare systems, I find that physicians are still “silo-ed”.  The expectation that once something is uploaded onto a portal or provided to one provider, that that information is shared across physicians, labs, etc. has not come to fruition in my experience.

The pain comes not only from the lack of consultation/info sharing across HCPs, labs, etc., but also from the unmet expectation that when I engage with physicians across a system, that they are taking a holistic approach to my and my family’s healthcare. — Mary Brown, EVP, client lead, Ogilvy Health

1. Ongoing/usual issues with understanding and managing through Prior Authorizations and high OOPs (or not covered/out of network so self-pay).

2. Lack of active listening.  Often providers have already come to a diagnosis by the time they enter the exam room relying entirely on the chart notes.

3. Tunnel vision, often see this with dispensing pharmacists at retail chains, there needs to be a short triage process where the patient’s overall well being should be either recorded or evaluated. This may be an opportunity to address health inequities, lack of knowledge regarding medication and potential lifestyle changes which may enhance or be detrimental to their treatment, overall health, and disease prognosis.

4. Lack of reliable information, large health plan systems need to address new members’ choices for benefit plans in a timely and efficient manner.  If members had easy access to lists of benefits, explanations of benefits and then a link to providers in network providing that care there would be greater compliance, streamlining of costs, and overall better satisfaction among all stakeholders in the healthcare system.

5. I’m seeing a lot of challenges with getting in to see HCPs and long scheduling times (leading to delays in care). Perhaps lingering effects of COVID backlog as well as ongoing staffing challenges (eg, nurses and specialists).  Actually just received a letter in mail this week for the Dartmouth Health Dermatology Clinic, apologizing for the long scheduling times and encouraging people to still reach out to the clinic if they have concerning areas. They also are putting in place a rapid clinic (up to 5 minutes) for spot checks to address the backlog and ensure patients are not putting off care for serious issues. — Ray Johnson, SVP, management supervisor, Ogilvy Health

As we age, the burden of our own healthcare can be overwhelming.  My parents are on a plethora of medications, all prescribed by various doctors which they take without questioning.  But, unfortunately, no one is overseeing the whole picture of their healthcare.  If they go to the hospital, it’s difficult to remember what medications they are taking unless they bring a printed sheet of paper.  Additionally, they also don’t always remember instructions from the doctor after their visits which means they are not very adherent.  They want to maintain their independence however, and as a result, I have no visibility into their healthcare.

It is important to empower our senior citizens to feel in control of their healthcare while ensuring they maintain that control.  It would be helpful if their healthcare provider network provided an easy-to-use and accessible app or portal where my parents could access to easily pull up medications, instructions or even a list of all their doctors and appointments – and share access to it to me, other caregivers, or any new physician they are seeing.  The following features would be ideal: Alert for medications that might interact, medication and appointment reminders; trackers for medication adherence so that the physician can easily review and monitor their habits; and connectivity with their pharmacy to help with prescription refills.

The more organized patients like my parents can be, the healthier they will stay. — Carrie Bartholomew, director, engagement strategy, Ogilvy Health

I find that most acute pain points are the lack of information and communication that seems to accompany healthcare. It feels like it is often assumed that the patient knows what’s going on or what questions to ask. Consider this example:  while you are walking through a room full of furniture with the lights on, for patients it’s often like walking through that room with no lights in the pitch dark. — Roger Boutin, VP of communications and market intelligence, Scorr Marketing

Access. As a patient, access to my healthcare provider, a specialist or procedure, means more to me than just being able to get an appointment scheduled in the time frame I desire – although that is a major pain point now that I’ve entered a relatively new phase of healthcare because of my age. It also means having the time with my provider or specialist that I want and the feeling that there is a general interest on their behalf to lean in and have a full and transparent conversation with me about my care and a vested interest in helping me achieve my goals. Given the last few years and the impact it has had on our healthcare system it is no wonder that at times as a patient it can feel like our providers and care team are just looking to “check the boxes” vs. fully engaging in the holistic care of me or “us” as the patient. While the ability to be able to communicate via digital channels, email and EMRs etc. helps, it lacks the ability to connect and converse on a human level. Building a relationship with my healthcare providers based on trust and a feeling that we are in this together lives as a barrier in my mind to truly exceptional healthcare. The patient can be an incredible self advocate but without a trusted healthcare partner who has the time they need to be a fully engaged partner there will be continued pain points and challenges that a patient will be unable to overcome on their own. — Allison Benson, EVP, client service, Merge

Two specific items come to mind immediately: Health literacy and accessibility. The ability to feel like you can understand what is happening can relieve so much stress, which could improve healing and recovery significantly. I have recently taken on the role of care partner with my parents, as well as having been through multiple health crises personally. You would think with the amount of time I’ve spent working in the industry, being a patient, and now being a care partner, I would be able to easily interpret and translate the care plan and what the HCPs are saying. If anything, I’m more confused, and if I go down the rabbit hole online, I may contribute to more confusion. Aside from talking with the care teams, the Portals are even more overwhelming and difficult to navigate (or even create a password!), especially if you’re not digitally savvy. Improving the patient experience to access your health information, and to interpret your health information is vital to improving the relationship with health care teams. We as advertising partners with hospital networks, plans, and brands have the opportunity and privilege to support patients better through resources and patient experiences that are simple, clear, easy to understand, and easy to engage with. We have the same opportunity to support physicians with resources that help them connect with their patients better to guide them through treatment plans that are clear, and help ease their patients’ anxiety. Digital plays a significant role to provide solutions as it has the ability to create interactive guides, easily accessible/shareable information, and portable information during and following appointments in a simple, clear approach.

Addressing Health Disparities: Addressing health disparities and recognizing the impact it has on patients could make a world of difference. Not only for low-income communities, health deserts, or understanding gender-specific health challenges, there is an opportunity for all of us to better educate ourselves and our physicians about the very real challenges that disrupt access or likelihood to go to a physician for proper and preventable care. In 2014, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer the first time, but only after repeatedly arguing with multiple doctors, including PCPs and OBGYNs for nearly two years. I was told that my diet was causing my symptoms, stress, it’s just depression (or seasonal depression), or blown off because there wasn’t an obvious issue. It wasn’t until I demanded to be screened for various women’s cancers following advice from a nutritionist (who had recently lost her mother to Uterine Cancer) that my diagnosis was finally identified. It hasn’t stopped there. In 2022 having gone through an emergency surgery in the ER, the doctors would speak to me, a woman, without any issue when I was on my own. Once my friend, a man, arrived to support me hours later, I was no longer spoken to. My procedure and post-op care discussion was directed towards him, a friend (not a spouse or family member) and not me. I was ignored. Imagine what it could have been like if I was a person of color from a neighborhood that was a health desert? I may not be here. We as advertisers would benefit from understanding these disparities to create greater awareness and empathy, which could be translated into education and resources for the physicians and healthcare communities. On the other hand, it could help to improve the patient outcomes if the physicians and health providers were to be better educated and aware of some of the disparities in addressing the needs and accessibility of healthcare to minority or diverse communities. If physicians are frustrated with patients not following through on care, perhaps an understanding of the barriers that are in their way (income, health deserts, health literacy, culture, etc.) could lead to more productive conversations and creative ways to overcome them as a [health] team. — Kelly Hopler, VP, strategy, Merge

As a patient my number-one pain point with the healthcare system is finding a provider that is a good fit for me – and number two is finding one that takes insurance. Great physicians, I find, are often out of network. — Michelle Bernstein, production director, Minds + Assembly 

Honestly, I feel like the entirety of the insurance system is my biggest pain point. It deters me from even looking for a doctor. Setting an appointment is the last option I resort to when I can’t self-diagnose or when OTC drugs don’t seem to work. Even then, I’m worried about how much out-of-pocket is owed, what is covered and where I can go. — Dillon Fernando, lead designer, motion, Minds + Assembly

Even with all the build-up in scheduling yearly appointments, and then sitting in waiting rooms, and then sitting in exam rooms, and waiting for that doc to come in… I always feel like I am being rushed. Each doctor is trying to get as many patients seen in one day. No matter the quality of their bedside manner, I feel like I don’t get the dedication I need. I wish appointments guaranteed deep conversations. I mean, it is my health we’re dealing with. — Jay Lopez, business development director, Minds + Assembly

Pain points include:

  • Lack of transparency
  • Fragmented/poor communication regarding billing or costs from health systems and insurers
  • Misaligned incentives

— Sarah Killeen, senior director, The Kinetix Group

The healthcare system is vast and complicated. Navigating through it when many patients are inexperienced is overwhelming, particularly when they have the emotional burden of a health crisis. For patients, there is so much to learn. First, there’s the disease — what it is, how it affects you. Then there are treatment options to consider and understand the benefits and tradeoffs of each. Dr. Google is a go-to source of information for many patients, and sometimes misinformation. But the importance of a robust HCP-patient dialog can’t be underestimated, which is when the HCP can bring greater clarity and understanding. Making an informed choice is where many struggle with the dissonance of thinking “have I made the best choice?” And it continues. Once a treatment is selected, many patients worry about coverage and affordability which is a source of anxiety when energy should be focused on getting well. — Pat Berry, SVP, group strategy director, Harrison and Star

Dealing with insurance companies, with all their complex formulas for payment (or non-payment), conflicting information from representatives, health providers who don’t want to deal with insurers and put the onus on the patient, and hard-to-understand statements are my most acute pain points when engaging with the healthcare system. — Pearson Brown, director of marketing and communications, AbelsonTaylor