Have you encountered one of those new style drink dispensers at a fast food restaurant or minimart? They are big and bright with a shiny red or silver surface. They have a touchscreen on the front where it seems like every soda and flavored water option you can imagine is displayed, with menus to drill down into flavors and diet or caffeine-free options.
There is a large physical button in the front that you press when you’ve made all your choices, and you can watch (and hear) your own customized beverage being created right in front of you. There is also generally a long line in front of these machines—often filled with children—because it takes a little time to get your drink mix just right.
What you may not know is that deep inside the heart of these dispensers, which are called “Coca-Cola Freestyle,” is a technology that is borrowed from medicine and healthcare. It is this technology that transformed Coca-Cola’s research in designing a machine that would let patrons create their own beverage mixes into a business within Coca-Cola that is worth more than a billion dollars—driving sales up (an average of 8%) and calories in drinks down (an average of 11%) in stores with a Freestyle (50,000 and counting).
The microdosing technology that is used to dispense very accurate amounts of prescription drugs for dialysis and cancer patients was adopted and refined for dispensing tiny amounts of very concentrated flavors in the Freestyle. The machines are actually much like an old-fashioned soda fountain, where the flavors and filtered water and sweetening syrup (if any) are mixed together as they are dispensed into the customer’s cup.
Watching how customers responded to the precise result of this process led to the realization that it was the experience of choosing and controlling the machine in creating the beverage that was driving the Freestyle’s success. In the end, the product being created is valued by consumers because of their role and their experience in dispensing it.
Switch gears with me now. At the heart of what we do are not just technologies (like microdosing) that give us a great deal of confidence that we can deliver excellent care to our patients—there is also the capacity to effectively engage patients and their families in the care experience. When patient experience is understood, appreciated, and valued, it helps drive factors such as transparency and communication, how patients understand and participate in their treatment, patient safety, and, ultimately, better clinical outcomes.
We are not machines. The word “providers” doesn’t do enough to explain how we are personally and specifically engaged in the care and results we seek for our patients. Technical precision is matched and transformed by the human touch in our work and in our commitment to extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental, and spiritual healing.