Despite more than 20 million Americans gaining healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, patient volume has been down—prior to the COVID-19 pandemic—among many hospitals and providers, which potentially imperiled revenue.
A recent survey of healthcare executives cited flat or declining patient volumes, with or without coverage, as their top revenue concern.
While healthcare has historically been a supply-driven industry structured around fee-for-service (FFS), in recent years, there’s been a major shift toward a more patient-centric system. This shift toward patients as consumers derives from a combination of trending factors: the rise in popularity of high deductible health plans, the shift from FFS to value-based care, and convenience as an increasingly critical component of patient decision-making.
Going forward, providers and health plans should adapt to the rise of consumerism or potentially face negative financial consequences.
Here are four consumer-centric strategies to consider:
- Use consumer insights to drive decision-making and improve the patient experience
- Add value and increase the convenience factor for patients through technology and partnerships
- Invest in technology that enables accurate price transparency
- Align patient out-of-pocket costs with clinical value of service
Using Consumer Insights
Other major consumer industries, like retail and entertainment, rely on individualized consumer insights to drive their decision-making. Providers and health plans should similarly start acting on consumer input. They can achieve this by developing their analytical capabilities, enhancing patient satisfaction surveys, and integrating gathering and tracking informal patient feedback.
Most providers and health plans have been slow to adapt their patient analytics. In a 2018 survey of more than 200 hospitals, only 46% have highly prioritized using consumer learning to guide decision-making, and just 15% have a high capability to do so.
Healthcare organizations can integrate their claims data with non-healthcare data to reveal key insights on issues ranging from patient access preferences to engaging chronic patients. More simply, providers and plans can incorporate informal feedback from patients into their daily practices and employee discussions.
Delivering Greater Convenience
It's no secret consumers make decisions based on convenience. Healthcare is not immune to this trend.
An immediate and relatively inexpensive way for providers to improve their convenience is by increasing their care access points, such as by partnering with pharmacies and low-cost walk-in clinics. This can satisfy consumers’ interest in convenience and help improve a provider’s finances.
Other convenience-related improvements include setting up on-site employer-based clinics and offering home visits to patients. Additionally, consider investing in and utilizing technology to increase patient access and engagement. For example, a real-time scheduling system allows self-serve patients to jump into cancelled or no-show appointments at the last minute. Real-time technologies can direct patients to emergency departments with the lowest wait times.