Healthcare is undergoing a wave of consumerization. Changing regulations are requiring patients to contribute more financially toward their own care, turning them into true healthcare consumers and motivating them to make more careful and informed decisions. At the same time, the consumerization of healthcare is driving more players into the healthcare space – from tech giants like Google and Apple, to convenience-focused retailers like Walmart and CVS. These new entrants are not only creating savvier, more informed patients, but are opening up more choices for where and how consumers direct their healthcare dollars.
I see three key changes that providers will need to make in order to compete with new entrants and adapt to this new era of healthcare consumerization:
- Making patient information a shared responsibility. The days of keeping each consumer’s information locked up in a filing cabinet and available only through a paper document request process are long over. Many providers have already started making progress by using patient portals to share information. Today’s patient portals are only a beginning. Instead of information flowing from provider to patient, consumers will increasingly want and need to contribute more of their own information, such as daily readings from weight scales, wearables or in-home test results.
- Allowing more variety in care settings. Patients are increasingly looking for care to come to them instead of traveling to a hospital or doctor’s office. Healthcare providers are shifting care to the home and to other outpatient settings in an effort to respond to these new demands for convenience, and new connected technologies and mobile devices are making it easier to deliver quality care in new settings.
- Delivering more personal healthcare. In an era of healthcare consumerization, healthcare providers need to think more like other industries. This is challenging because of the perverse incentives associated with fee for service. For many patients, interacting with the healthcare system is like dealing with the DMV. Interactions can be lengthy, complicated and frustrating. However, healthcare organizations that put the patient at the center of their care delivery processes can improve the health and wellness of their communities; drive patient satisfaction and engagement, which are critical to controlling costs; and increase quality and profitability. This can start with simple measures, like providing a multi-lingual staff, addressing people by a preferred name, knowing personal histories and providing more convenient after-hours access that other industries have mastered.