Consumerism in the healthcare industry is an inescapable and growing trend.
Given the ever-present evolution of the use of mobile devices to connect patients and providers to their care, or the practice of care, it’s no wonder that the concept of mHealth is, and is now a major driver in healthcare. Patients – the consumers of healthcare — are the driver behind the movement – the consumerization of healthcare.
Patients are increasingly taking an active role in their care experience and are evermore empowered to choose their own care option. Given the evolution of technology, today’s patients are now used to having mobile tools at their fingertips to access and manage information anywhere, anytime. Because of this, there is a greater expectation for a more personalized experience in healthcare. Technologies that engage with patients effectively, and via the communication channels they are used to in daily life, will be at the forefront of taking patient care to its next level. Such technologies also will help organizations build loyalty among their customers, which should lead to higher patient volumes, revenue, profitability and an overall standard of care.
So what exactly is the consumerization of healthcare? According to Premier Healthcare Exchange, a cost management firm, “consumerization” describes the transformation of an industry from a primarily business-to-business (B2B) enterprise to one that focuses on business-to-consumer (B2C) activities. Traditionally, healthcare has been a marketplace where businesses transact solely with other businesses: Practices, payers, providers and pharmaceutical companies, for example. As noted by the firm, patients (consumers) have had little involvement in or responsibility for their own care and cost choices. However, this is now changing as the industry is moving to one where consumers are taking a more active role in their healthcare decisions and expenditures. “As a result, every healthcare company and organization will need to become more consumer-centric,” Premier Healthcare Exchange notes, “The deck is being reshuffled, and there will be new winners and new losers, depending on how companies play their hand.”
Factors such as cost of care, quality and ease of service will become even more critical in determining how consumers move and where they’ll take their money. “Integration of mobile technology and social media will be essential for today’s modern healthcare provider seeking to initiate change in an ever-evolving industry.”
Consumers are becoming more active in planning for their healthcare needs, making decisions based on personal choices. They’ve decided that they have their own best interests in mind because of previous unsatisfactory health experiences driven by high cost, lack of access and little interaction with their care givers. Some might also say that this is one reason, among many, that providers are moving to concierge models, so they can respond to the needs of their patients rather than trying to build their practices in an over regulated medical world.
Hospitals, health systems and providers must attempt to meet the demands of patients and provide better treatment options, interactions and lower costs. In consumerization, providers must better communicate with patients and in a manner in which they prefer when they prefer. Moving forward, healthcare will see its communication become more targeted and relevant for each patient; fewer mass communications and more specific messages.
To adapt to a consumer-driven healthcare system, there are dozens of things health systems and practices can do. Here are a few:
- Offer products based on patient need.
- Engage consumers in the care delivery process with tools that give them incentives to practice healthy behaviors and participate in their treatments.
- Provide consumer experiences that increase satisfaction, trust and brand loyalty.
- Conduct consumer research and interviews of patients to see how they feel about a practice meeting their needs and goals.
The future of healthcare technology will rely on practices and health systems building loyalty and providing personalized care to sustain long-term growth. And, if you’re still not convinced about consumerization and its effects on healthcare, take a look at some of these facts about it:
- By 2017, 50 percent of mobile users are expected to download a health app.
- Health insurance premiums are projected to rise 6.3 percent for US companies and their employees.
- Employees’ share of healthcare costs, including both premiums and out-of-pocket costs, has increased more than 50 percent over the last five years.
- 40 percent of Americans care for an adult or child with significant health issues.
- 72 percent of caregivers track their own weight, diet, exercise, blood pressure, sleep, headaches or some other health indicator.
- More than one-third of respondents who are online said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in using smartphones or tablets to ask their doctors questions, make appointments or get medical test results.
- One-quarter of people aged 65 and older are very interested in using the devices to help manage their blood pressure, for instance, compared to 38 percent of younger people.
- 80 percent of physicians are using mobile technology to provide patient care.
- More than 25 percent of commercially insured patients use mobile apps to manage their health.
- 30 million wearable health devices were shipped in 2012, a 37-percent increase over 2011.
- 75 million US adults used their mobile devices to access health information in 2012, up from 61 million in 2011.
- More than half of tablet users over the age of 55 use tablets for health purposes.
- 13 percent of health systems plan to offer their patients an app this year.