3 Ways Patient Care is like Tinder

Clearstep Team
By Adeel Malik

I had the opportunity to speak at HIMSS a few weeks ago at the Patient Experience and Consumerization Pavilion. Often when describing Clearstep, I’ve used the analogy of Tinder’s matching technology. For this talk, I decided to commit to this apparent paradox: What if patient care was like Tinder? I’m sharing the speaking notes below. For more information about Clearstep, please feel free to reach out to us here.

3 Ways Patient Care is like Tinder

Everyone knows that dating has changed. How many people have corresponded with a suitor by a written letter? Maybe there are more romantics here than I think, but I’m assuming that most are just texting potential partners, often spending most time getting to each other digitally.


Tinder saw an opportunity to build technology for this new world of dating to make finding partners more convenient and accessible. But why did it change in the first place? Well, people don’t like dating — it can be frustrating, tiring, feel like an endless search with no visibility to even a potential match. 

Today, with the dozens of dating apps from Hinge to Bumble to Coffee Meets Bagel, the idea of meeting a partner through your phone is now so common, it’s really become embedded in the fabric of our society.

So what if patient care was like Tinder? Today, I actually want to share 3 ways that patient care is already like Tinder.


The same disruptive forces that have driven the changes we see in online dating — access to the internet, smartphones, data, and new information — have also changed expectations for patient care. 

The pandemic particularly revealed how broken access to healthcare is. And in the last year and a half, we’ve increasingly witnessed how our industry is facing unprecedented disruption from big tech, retail, and innovative direct-to-consumer companies. 

People want easily accessible care, quick contact with providers, digital options when possible, and clear next steps for what to do.

Finding the right match for your love life and finding the right care, easily and with transparency, just makes life better, and more enjoyable. 

So here’s a sneak peak into the three ways. The right match is personal. The stakes are high for getting the right match. And people want to chat before making an in-person commitment.


First, the right romantic match and the right match for a patient’s care is personal. Hopefully there are some Grey’s Anatomy fans here, but the right man for Meredith is different than the right man for Christina. And Callie doesn’t even like men in the first place. The right match can be complicated and it’s always personal.

The residents of Seattle Grace Hospital were lucky. They somehow found their perfect match in their residency program. For everyone else, it’s a numbers game. According to CNN, 42% of Americans are single. There are just a lot of options to swipe through. 

So, to help people sort through the noise, behind dating apps is powerful technology and intelligence. Tinder is built from Elo ratings — a method used for calculating the differences between two people to then predict the outcome of a match, often used in chess or other sports matches.


Hinge uses the Gale-Shapley algorithm, which doctors will recognize as the algorithm that decides their life trajectory by powering the residency match program. 

These apps use machine learning to continually improve and adjust their algorithms based on user behavior to better match people together.

Patients are also trying to sift through the hundreds of options they have for care to understand their best path. According to Rock Health, 76% of patients check symptoms or look for care online to explore their options. 


Healthcare providers are also now using matching technology to help patients find what they’re looking for. At Clearstep, we help match patients to the right care and services within a health system’s network, much like the way Tinder matches people together. Behind the scenes, we’ve built powerful algorithms, built off of Schmitt-Thompson triage protocols, that are designed to understand a patient and their needs. On the other end, Clearstep understands the details of the care resources and services of a particular health system. Sitting between the patient and the health system, we then match patients to the right resource based on their specific needs. We’ve been able to demonstrate a 95% triage, or matching, accuracy. If only dating apps had those kinds of numbers.

So, much like dating apps use intelligent algorithms to understand users’ needs and preferences to match them together, Clearstep, and other virtual triage technologies, are already matching healthcare consumers to the right, personalized care for them. 

Now, onto the second way that patient care is already like Tinder. In dating, the stakes are high for anything but the perfect one. Bridget Jones could end up with Hugh Grant, her womanizing boss. Or she could end up with Colin Firth, a literal Mr. Darcy. Hopefully she makes the right choice.


The same goes for healthcare. The stakes are high for anything but the right care. Let’s say Bridget has a UTI. For her, the best option is to go to urgent care, which costs $112. Instead, she goes to the ER. After waiting several hours for care, she unfortunately ends up paying $665 for the same treatment. 

Because the stakes are so high, investment in better matching algorithms is worthwhile for both love and healthcare. Permanente Medical Group estimates that up to 30% of the $3.8T in US healthcare spending is “wasted” on unnecessary or inefficient services. United Healthcare estimates as much as $32B could be saved from avoidable ER visits alone. On the flip side, there are also billions of dollars worth of missed opportunities to get people into the system and deliver the right care.

Overall, there’s a need to better, more intelligently match people to the care that they actually need, using the latest technology.

Finally, the third way that patient care is already like Tinder: dating apps are built to be chat first, meet later. Users like to find out more information on a potential match through chat before seeing them in person.


With Clearstep, patients can chat online to express their needs, share more about themselves and their preferences, and ultimately find the right care. Our NLP AI technology understands free text. This allows the AI chat agent to ask as few questions as possible before routing patients to the right care.

To summarize, there are 3 ways patient care is already like Tinder. The right match is personal. The stakes are high for getting the right match. And people want to chat before making an in-person commitment.

Why does all this matter? Because patients won’t stay loyal if it’s not the right match. According to NRC Health, 40% of consumers are not loyal to a hospital or health system. 


By routing patients to the right care and services in their network, and by delivering an awesome experience for accessing care, providers can keep patients for life. Clearstep’s Net Promoter Score is 4 times the industry average. And we’re whitelabeled, which means patients use our technology, but build brand loyalty with our customers, not us. So with our partners, we’re drive a 4x better experience for accessing care than traditional models for our partners.


Really significantly, just in the last few weeks we’ve collected data showing how Clearstep is driving real behavior change for how people access care. About 51% of the time, Clearstep is rerouting people to a different source of care than they originally intended. And when we’ve rerouted people, nearly 1/3 of those users are actually engaging with our suggested course of action for care. 

Sometimes, patients just need (and often want) a nudge in the right direction and Clearstep helps make it happen. To learn more about Clearstep, find time with us here.