The industry needs more home-grown innovation

February 1, 2014

Consumers expect more from healthcare

Customer experience in healthcare is slipping. Not that it was all that great to begin with, but it’s slipping at a time individual Americans are becoming more involved in health and interacting more often with the healthcare system.

According to PwC in its annual overview of the healthcare sector, all industry players could do a better job of innovating to meet the demands of the suddenly-engaged consumers.

“We found that indeed these shoppers are price sensitive, but they are becoming more discerning,” said Ceci Connolly, managing director of the Health Research Institute, in a conference call discussing the annual outlook.

With the industrywide focus on the consumer-specifically the consumer as an individual-money is moving differently. High-deductible health plans, increased out-of-pocket responsibility, transparent pricing and direct-to-consumer selling puts more market power in the hands of ordinary people who are restless and unimpressed with their healthcare experiences right now. From finding a health plan (on an exchange site or otherwise), enrolling, choosing a provider, scheduling an appointment and following up on care recommendations, consumers believe the experience is lacking.

For example, a busy mom doesn’t want to fill out the same form with the same information about her family for each interaction she has with a payer or provider. She doesn’t have to do that in other areas of her life, and shouldn’t have to do it for her healthcare.

How to improve the experience

The PwC experts say mobile health (mhealth) is one way to begin satisfying consumer wants while at the same time keeping up with added demand from 25 million new covered lives. Mhealth could include electronic communications between patients and providers, remote monitoring, virtual diagnosis and self-directed actions such as smart-phone apps for appointment scheduling.

Consumers are accustomed to such technology for travel, banking and entertainment, and they perceive healthcare as being behind the times.

Chris Wasden, managing director, global healthcare innovation leader for PwC, says the industry shouldn’t wait for traditional technology creators to present products and services to healthcare, but rather, payers and providers should drive their own innovation and use mhealth and the cloud to fuse technologies into daily consumer activities.

It’s telling when you consider that some of today’s most popular wellness inspirations have come from outside healthcare, such as the electronic bracelets that so many Americans are wearing on their wrists to track exercise and calorie intake. One of my close friends has one and seems to be enjoying the competition she has going with her husband to see who can fit in their 10,000 steps per day. She tells me the ease of the technology is what drew her in.

Had the device originated on the healthcare side-rather than the consumer side-it would have no doubt suffered years of adoption barriers, not the least of which is price.

According to PwC research, 27% of physicians are encouraging their patients to use mhealth today, but sometimes it’s the patients that are educating the physicians on what’s available and how to use it. Almost 60% of physicians agree that mhealth is the way of the future.

Even though you’re working at breakneck pace to keep up with consumerism, the demands are clearly growing faster. Consider creating a more versatile process to manage innovation separate from the model you currently have for your core business.