If there is one thing that is driving fundamental changes to business models across industries, it is most certainly the ‘never-seen-before’ consumer centricity. A large share of credit for this new-found rigor around consumer centricity goes to consumers bearing more of the financial burden of their healthcare costs. In addition, pervasiveness of digital tools at the hands of consumers (mobile, social media and sensors/wearables) and digital technologies (analytics, cloud, interactive design, etc.) at the disposal of enterprises is paving the way for consumerism.
As more and more businesses move the consumer market to a digital one—Airbnb, Etsy, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon and Lyft—they are raising consumer expectations to demand the highest experience, ease and access. Big box retail companies such as Walmart and Target are also influencing consumer demands as they play more active roles in the healthcare sector while retaining their winning approach to marketing to consumers. Thanks to these aggressive consumer-centric models, “Consumerism” is taking a different shape and form every passing day. The healthcare industry in particular is now taking this growing demand more seriously as consumers transfer these expectations to their healthcare experience.
The paradigm shift—from patient to consumer
As consumers start to pay more directly for healthcare, they require more visibility into where their money is going. They are also driving higher demand for the full consumer experience in all areas of interaction from website portals to personal interactions with healthcare staff. Emergence of this “consumer” is the most secular of the paradigm shifts that the healthcare industry is going through.
It is not just the immediate access to digital tools and technologies or the ‘consumer centricity’ shown by other industries that is causing this consumer mindset in healthcare. Government impetus on protecting healthcare consumer interests and empowering them with more choices through various legislations such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has a big role to play. Value-based care and value-based purchase programs/models are shifting the responsibility to patients while striving to provide better care for less cost.
At the same time, many commercial plans now require higher out-of-pocket expenses. This draws more attention from consumers around details of their healthcare purchases. They also explore more ways to offset higher costs through enrollment in daily wellness and preventative care programs. Incorporating their healthcare data from these programs into their conversations with providers means higher expectations/promotions from their providers around these topics. This is the start of converging complementary needs—population health management at the individual consumer level as well as the provider level meeting quality and contract needs. As patients become more and more responsible for their healthcare decisions, payments, and outcomes, it is only natural that they think more like consumers than just a receiver of care, the “patient.”
Key focus areas for healthcare decision makers
To address the new set of expectations from consumers, healthcare organizations need to take a radically different approach, while keeping in mind that consumerism as a trend is certain to redefine their business models. Cosmetic or front-end changes are not good enough in addressing the rise of consumerism; in fact, such efforts run the risk of quickly becoming counterproductive.
Achieving a simple, standardized, effective and efficient consumer experience across the care spectrum (wellness, prevention, illness, chronic care) and across the touch points (care evaluation, selection, access, consumption, payments and customer service etc.) needs a very well-thought-out, comprehensive strategy.