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Understanding Consumers and Improving the Customer Experience in Healthcare

#Aim2Innovate Twitter chat reveals next steps for health consumerization.

By Rasu Shrestha, MD, MBA

Hashtags: #Aim2Innovate + #HIMSS17

The contrast cannot be starker. We freely use Expedia to book a flight, Uber to hitch a ride, Open Table to make a dinner reservation and Amazon to do that last minute shopping. Yet, when we need healthcare, we often deal with massive inconveniences, confusing complexities, and slow inefficient practices that seem to just get in the way. Well, change is finally coming to healthcare, and consumers of healthcare are not just becoming more engaged and demanding, but they actually have skin in the game, are becoming more discriminating on price, quality and performance, and increasingly, are willing to walk away from poor service.

A recent #Aim2Innovate Twitter chat organized by HIMSS (transcript available here) saw massive participation from many in the healthcare industry who had strong opinions about what we need to do to better understand consumers and improve the customer experience in healthcare. While healthcare, as we have known it thus far, has really been about surviving, there was abject acknowledgement that ideally, it should really be about thriving. Consumers want more say in treatment planning and care decisions, they want convenient access to their medical records and they want easier access to their care providers. Indeed, consumers today are more engaged, empowered, connected and motivated than ever before to take a more active role in their care journeys. The pivot, as was discussed in the Tweet-chat, is for health IT to leverage this momentum, learn from other industries, and massively transform care processes such that the very definition of healthcare starts to extend from curing illness to fostering wellness. In the brave new world of consumer-centric healthcare, it should be possible to take your health and wellness data, and get contextualized guidance and interaction with the appropriate care team that is best suited to not just make you better, but guide you to stay better and motivate you to change your behavior so you remain healthier.

Based on key insights generated from the Twitter chat, the HIMSS Innovation Committee is going to be elevating the dialogue further as part of a provocative panel discussion at the HIMSS17 Annual Conference and Exhibition - Innovation Forum on Tuesday Feb. 21. At the risk of sounding (purposefully) provocative, challenging themes that will be openly discussed to stimulate active conversation include:

  • “Gimme my damn data!” Do you believe that a patient/consumer should be able to access all health information about themselves as soon as it is available?
  • “HIPAA-noia” Arguably, our health system is skewed too far towards protecting privacy at the expense of limiting the flow of data. Is that the case?
  • “No, you suck!” From a consumer perspective, a non-compliant patient is a person for whom the treatment did not work. Hence, the term ‘non-compliant patient’ should be abolished. Do you agree?
  • “Healthcare vs. Medical care” Many healthcare organizations deliver almost exclusively medical care. Should organizations have to meet certain criteria to brand themselves as healthcare or health entities?
  • “Meaningful to whom?” Meaningful Use, while driving increased adoption of health information technology, has really made systems less consumer friendly. Where does it go from here?

Consumerism in healthcare will mean the triumph of convenience over complexity, and innovation that leaves behind the incumbents who are unwilling to change. It will mean quality over quantity, and yes, value over volume. It will mean the fall of geography and the rise of transparency and choice. It will mean the emergence of economic drivers that will finally get healthcare professionals to push for what really matters the most: moving from sick-care to well-care, and keeping people in the cycle of wellness, giving them not just more years in their life, but more life in their years.

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