Are Healthcare Organizations Keeping Up with Consumer Demands?

June 17, 2019

As healthcare becomes more patient-centric, can healthcare technology keep up?

It’s no secret that healthcare is becoming more consumer focused. And it’s also no secret that a huge number of those consumers want better, more-convenient access to their healthcare, especially when it comes to technology. But how are healthcare organizations doing in meeting those needs?

A new report from Kaufman Hall, 2019 State of Consumerism in Healthcare: The Bar is Rising, finds that while top organizations have kept pace in recent years, underperforming organizations are falling even further behind.

The Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Index ranks organizations by how well they are meeting rising consumer demands, concentrating on the areas of consumer access, experience, pricing, and infrastructure. Those organizations are then broken up into different tiers.

For the second year in a row, only 8% of organizations ranked as Tier 1, while only a quarter ranked in Tier 2.

However, there was a much larger shift in the lower tiers. In 2018, 52% of organizations were in Tier 3, compared to this year’s 39%. Most of that change in Tier 3 can be explained by the increase in Tier 4 organizations: from 17% in 2018 to 29% in 2019.

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According to the report, most of that dropoff can be explained by lower-tiered organizations still relying on older models: traditional, physical access points. While many organizations offer widespread urgent care (61%), ambulatory surgery centers (51%), and free-standing diagnostics facilities (41%), only around half had retail clinics.

“Many hospitals and health systems remain focused on a brick-and-mortar model of offering consumers access to their providers,” said Dan Clarin, senior vice president, strategic and financial planning at Kaufman Hall in a release. “Consumers are accustomed to the convenience of being able to access the goods and services they need on their smartphones, tablets, and computers. Healthcare organizations that want to connect with new or potential consumers should adapt their delivery models to remain relevant in an increasingly digital environment.”

Another area of needed growth, according to the report, is digital patient interaction. Only about a third of organizations offer widespread online self-scheduling for existing patients, while only 16% offered those services for new patients. Sixty-six percent of organizations offer few to no opportunities for real-time patient feedback, while half do not offer real-time updates on office wait times and 38% only offer those updates on a limited basis.

That slow growth and adoption of patient-centric technologies is contrary to executive’s attitudes to technology-while only 11% said they had best-in-class customer experience capabilities in their organizations, 81% said improving the patient experience is a high priority for their organizations.

“As consumers continue to gain greater digital access to information and services in other areas of their lives, they expect the same of their healthcare experience,” said Clarin. “Providers must introduce digital best practices as part of their overall customer experience strategies, and begin to think in terms of ‘delighting’ rather than merely ‘satisfying’ consumers going forward. Doing so will require substantial investments in infrastructure and training.”

Nicholas Hamm is an editor with Managed Healthcare Executive