There is no doubt that the consumers of healthcare services today are more engaged and empowered than they have ever been. They use “apps” and their browsers to stay informed. They want to be in control, understand, and drive healthcare decisions for themselves and their loved ones.
As an industry, we are pivoting to appreciate the need to see healthcare as a wider continuum that stretches well beyond the traditional areas of ‘managing the disease’ to ‘preventing illness.’ We must optimize the balance between cost, quality, access and experience, while we are acutely aware that we need to expand our focus from intelligently managing and curing disease using the best technology, science and research, to engaging consumers of health services further upstream – such that we focus on wellness, healthy life habits, and behavioral change. Truly the best healthcare is one where we’re actually not in the hospital! Indeed, healthcare should not just be about surviving, but about thriving.
There are well acknowledged sensitivities about blurring the distinction between a ‘patient’ and a ‘consumer’, and for good reason too. [References: The Huffington Post: “Rebranding ‘Patients’ as ‘Health Care” and PubMed.gov: “Patient, Consumer, Client, or Customer: What do People Want to be Called?”] The sanctity of the traditional doctor-patient relationship should be upheld, but perhaps with an acknowledgement that as consumers of healthcare services become more accustomed to superior experiences in almost every other facet of life, and as they engage more deeply in decisions around care or every day decisions that could have a profound effect on their health and wellbeing, we as an industry need to be better prepared to ensure we help them make better, more informed decisions. A place to start is perhaps a wish list of patients and consumers and the shared values of convenience, outcomes, and personal attention that position them as more alike than they are different. [Reference: The Advisory Board: “Build Patient and Consumer Loyalty]
With the holiday season just around the corner, it gives us time to discuss what really matters to us in healthcare. Families and loved one gather around together and talk about things that have affected them, and are most important to them. So, what do healthcare consumers want for the holidays? Let’s begin by considering the following observations about the current state before engaging in a deeper dialogue through the upcoming #Aim2Innovate Twitter chat.
# 1: Provider organizations across the country are implementing patient engagement strategies to improve care quality and meet a host of requirements arising from meaningful use regulations, payment reform, and evolving consumer expectations. As a result, there is a lot of discussion about “experience”, “engagement”, “satisfaction”, “activation”, and “compliance”. However, what providers mean for the most part when they use these terms is:
In reality though, consumers are left with their wish list unfulfilled. Providers focus efforts on compliance and activation efforts. They fall short of giving consumers the type of experience and the level of service they really desire. [Reference: Advisory Board: “Beyond Compliance: Patient Engagement from the Patient’s Perspective”]
So, how can we take a more consumer-centric approach to care? How can IT help?
Wishlist Item: Easy and expanded access, streamlined experience, coordinated care delivery, information that makes sense.
#2: What healthcare consumers say is most important does not always correlate with their actual satisfaction levels. As shown below in McKinsey’s Consumer Health Insights survey, there is often a disconnection between what consumers believe matters most and what influences their opinions most strongly. [Reference: McKinsey & Company: “Debunking Common Myths about Healthcare Consumerism”]
In contrast, there are other scenarios where patients’ wants don’t necessarily match their actual medical needs (for example: an antibiotics prescription request for a viral upper respiratory infection). In such situations, empathy and effective communication become far more important contributing factors to outcomes and eventual satisfaction than giving patients what they desire.
So, how do we better know what our patients really want and need? How can IT help?
Wishlist Item: Convenience, consistent experience, personalized service, durable relationships, shared decision-making
# 3: Ongoing efforts to reorganize the industry around consumers have presented both opportunities and challenges. [Reference: PWC: Business Models: “Transformation for a Consumer-centric World”] Contrast the empowered consumer with the exasperated consumer:
So, how can we create simplicity and seamless experiences? How can we engage—but not frustrate—consumers? How can IT help?
Wishlist Item: Ease of use, transparency, efficiency, meaningful insights, anticipatory recommendations, understanding and addressing preferences, a personalized experience.
What do consumers want for the holidays (that they can’t get without IT)?
With the holidays around the corner, how do we stimulate conversations around what is most meaningful to us as we go through our healthcare journeys or make decisions that may affect our health and wellbeing? What is on your wish list?
Join @HIMSS and Dr. @RasuShrestha for an exclusive #Aim2Innovate Twitter chat on Dec. 15 at 2:00 p.m. CT where we will discuss the evolving continuum of consumers to patients, and the role of IT in enabling better experiences across this continuum. Join the chat using this #Aim2Innovate Twitter chat room. These findings will be explored further and discussed during the HIMSS17 Innovation Forum in February.
Twitter Chat questions that will be discussed:
T1: How can health IT ensure a more consumer-centric approach to care delivery?
T2: How can (health) IT help us better understand what patients really want in their (self-) care?
T3: How can health IT simplify and create better health experiences to avoid friction for consumers?
T4: Is today’s healthcare delivery model treating you like a patient or person? What needs to change?
T5: What is the gap between what consumerization means for healthcare versus what it actually means for consumers?