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Consumerism in Healthcare 2016 and Beyond Pt. 3

By: | Tags: , , | Comments: 0 | November 9th, 2015

Part 3

In Part 1, we briefly discussed a few emerging trends in healthcare that seem to be gathering momentum; including the impact of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). In Part 2, we discussed how the internet, and particularly Google, has changed “consumer engagement” and what the healthcare industry must invest to catch up with consumer demand for interconnectivity to “everything.” This trend is irreversible and even more likely to pick up steam in the next 4 years. Think of it in terms of a hockey stick; we’re likely just past the bend. Furthermore, in Part 2 we spoke about “control of information” and the “everything of healthcare” and that we were at the point of where “the patient really is in charge. The patient will most assuredly have better care because their provider will be better informed. There’s also an unintended consequence; lower cost and better care. That is the future of a more engaged consumer in healthcare.” 

Now on to Part 3 in which I want to expand a recently released survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions on “Healthcare Consumer Engagement ” and discuss the more engaged consumer that goes way beyond the “younger generations.”

I recently had the privilege of taking my 77 year old mother to have some diagnostic tests at a top tier university medical center. Not only was the service exceptional, but they took the time to scan all her older medical records, and then gave her the log-in and password to her entire medical file. The staff member offered to help her log in if she desired. I admit, I was impressed, pleased, and told her I would handle it for her. This was a great experience and it was satisfying to see a top tier system that invested 100s of millions in technology, and then put it to use for the good of the patient. Such exceptional technology must be moved out of top tier university medical centers so government grants and tax-free funding can be used to build that kind of infrastructure. Better yet, so it could be done by the market itself, funded via the savings this kind of technology offers the providers and payers.

Hospitals have the most advanced information about us; but apart from pregnancies, that information is, for the most part, when we are at our worst and therefore, not useful in making improvements for our overall wellness. We also cannot expect that everyone has access to the university medical centers. They would be completely overwhelmed and, of course, the cost would be astronomical. I saw the “hospital” based bill sent to Medicare. The top line was staggering and since services were provided in a hospital, it is likely the university will get 50% to 100% percent more than a non-hospital based treatment. US healthcare costs are now topping $3.2 trillion (USD) annually, and it is unquestionably something we, as taxpayers, can’t afford.

But, imagine this from the Deloitte Study:

Consumer engagement can take many forms as a person navigates through episodes of health and sickness.

Consider “Tom” and “Anita”:

Tom currently does not presently have a health issue, but he wants to be prepared for that time when it comes. He researches his health insurance options and enrolls in a health plan that offers good coverage at a price he can afford. Using resources he finds on his plan’s website, Tom takes a health risk assessment, selects a primary care provider, and enrolls in a program that gives him a discount at a local gym. Prior to his next wellness visit, he uploads data from a fitness device he has been wearing to share with his doctor. A quick check on a mobile app shows that he is making good progress toward reaching his own health goals.

Anitadevelops an emerging health concern and searches online to learn more about possible diagnoses, treatments, and area doctors. She selects a provider after comparing several on measures of quality and price; schedules an appointment online; and comes prepared to talk with the doctor about treatment options. Later, she avoids a trip back to the doctor’s office by accessing her medical records online from home, sending a question to her doctor via email, and ordering a prescription refill online. Sticking to her physician’s care plan for her newly diagnosed chronic condition is easy with support from a self-monitoring device that gives her personalized alerts and reminders.

Imagine a future in which more consumers engage with the health care system like Tom and Anita! A future that holds the promise of more effective, efficient, and satisfying care experiences with better health outcomes for those individuals and the accountable care populations to which they belong.

I think we are getting there and the pace is quickening. More providers and payers recognize the advantages to their own bottom-line along with the improved overall wellness of their patients which provides them quality care “points.” Consumer/patient engagement is improving, therefore more providers are becoming engaged, and they have to be. Online resources are becoming more accurate and reliable than they were just a few years ago, and everyone is relying more on, and on additional, technology. According to reliable sources “more than 60% of technology users say that utilizing health technologies has had a significant impact on their behavior.

It was during my crash course in healthcare in the early 90s that I realized there were two types of qualities in healthcare. The clinical quality, or that achieved by excellent medical efficacy, experience and execution by a trained medical professional; and then there was the perception of quality or how the professional made the patient feel. I witnessed it first hand as an administrator when we audited the medical records of patients in a medical review environment. First, we found the best professionals did not always have the best “bedside manners,” but they were geniuses at their profession. Second, we could see that the best-perceived professionals made patients “feel” better about their care, but did not always have the most advanced treatments and protocols. Today, that gap is likely much smaller and I believe the trend line will continue to show a narrowing as patients get smarter, have access to more technology, and the professionals see the patient as a customer, not just a patient. The benefits of a more educated and aware consumer/patient will be seen directly as we begin to measure “Patient Wellness” factors, but this requires a new set of metrics. More on that in Part 4 to come.

– Noel J. Guillama, President

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