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Consumerism in Healthcare 2016 and Beyond Pt. 4

By: | Tags: , , , , , | Comments: 0 | November 16th, 2015

Part 4 / Final

Over the first three parts of this series (I will admit here I would enjoy writing about this subject) we have explored the changes being driven by the emergence of Consumerism in Healthcare based around my experiences, more as a healthcare consumer than as a healthcare executive. This transformation is moving the center of healthcare from the provider and facility to the patient or consumer – the “patient centric” healthcare. I believe this trend is driven by several factors including demographics, the use and content of the internet and a more connected consumer, and that we are witnessing a true transformation and not simply another evolution.

This is a time where the consumers are beginning to demand more control over the collection and dissemination of their medical information. Healthcare, as an industry, is beginning to deal with a better informed, and a more technology-driven, consumer. On one end of the spectrum is the baby-boomer generation; on the other end are the highly mobile and independent millennial generation. The latter is a generation abandoning the traditions of their parents, faster than their parents separated from their own parents. As we noted “the patient is really in charge, the patient will most assuredly have better care because his providers will be better informed, but there will also be an unintended consequence- lower cost and better care. That is the future of a more engaged consumer in healthcare.“ 

Parts of this commentary is based on results and interpretation of a recently released survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions on “Healthcare Consumer Engagement .” 

Let us discuss what we mean by consumer engagement. We are talking about the active participation of the consumer to monitor, take active and deliberate steps to control their wellness. This means not just accepting what the care provider says, but these “engaged consumers” do their own research and make sure they express their issues correctly. A consumer that will dialog with their healthcare provider and make sure they are expressing their feelings. More importantly, the provider hears them. It also means they are more conscious of the cost of their healthcare, treatments and outcomes. Yes, you read it right, “cost,” one of the central issues in healthcare for 50 years, and the point of material disconnect between the consumer of healthcare and the payer of healthcare. This is how we have gone from approximately 5% of U.S GDP in 1964 to 17% in 2014. The engagement also means that the consumer is partnering with the provider to make the decisions, keeping continued communication, and finally, and most importantly, patient compliance.

Today we have found engaged consumers are having material issues, and none are more relevant than communications. The provider is the challenge, in both how communication happens, (mostly at a face-to-face visit), and how the information is made relevant to the consumer. Currently the consumer is nearly real-time and on-demand for everything from banking to entertainment, yet the gap between the real world and healthcare has never been greater. Why? Healthcare has lead in the use of other communication technologies from the telegraph, the landline phone, the pager, the fax and the cell phone. Why those, and not now? The issue may be that most of those technologies made the provider’s life better; now the consumer is demanding that his “experience” be better.

One side effect of the more engaged and technology-driven healthcare consumer will be lower cost and better quality. It may not be apparent today as most of us are seeing healthcare cost and insurance cost continue to grow at a multiple of inflation, but I believe that this is an adjustment period. I can list one modest example, I had from the early 80s.

I recall when I purchased my first personal digital assistant. I carried a big phone book practically 24 hours a day to go with my new two-way trunked radio phone just as the cell phone was coming online. I had to manually enter hundreds of contacts into the new PDA, which took me a week and dozens of hours. My friends thought I was nuts; but once I did that conversion from hard copy to digital data, I never looked back. I have migrated that same data from the Casio PDA though to a dozen Blackberries to Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and the latest iPhones. The value I have received from that initial investment in data conversion is incalculable. Now my contacts number in the 1,000s and I smile every time I see one of them since the original transfer from over 30 years ago. This analogy is minor by comparison to what we are experiencing in healthcare.

Companies from Amazon®, eBay®, Expedia®, Airbnb®, Thumbtack®, to Uber® are successfully disruptive to decades old business models. Providers that comprehend how these companies are using technology to transform key industries, will begin to understand the renaissance underway in healthcare. Consumers today like transparency, like to be educated, like to use online resources for everything. They value accuracy, customization and speed. To become the leaders of tomorrow, providers must understand that to be effective at consumer engagement, they must use technology to improve quality of care, create efficiencies, and enhance product delivery to stay relevant and attract new consumers. The days of controlling information that started this series, are over. The patient of today does not want to waste time in an overfilled waiting room, that all too closely resembles and ER, just for a prescription refill or to see a doctor for what could be handled by other technical means. This transformation is well underway. The way healthcare business was conducted in 2000 vs 2020, will seem like more than a century has elapsed.

– Noel J. Guillama, President

Amazon®, eBay®, Expedia®, Airbnb®, Thumbtack® and Uber® are registered trademarks owned by their respective companies and used for example only.

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