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Six Ways to Bring Consumerism to Healthcare

Six Ways to Bring Consumerism to Healthcare

Healthcare has evolved from the days when the local doctor, corner pharmacy and neighborhood hospital were the obvious choices for care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is disrupting traditional channels of healthcare coverage, meaning patients are faced with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, and on the hook for more of their healthcare costs. As such, obtaining healthcare coverage is now resembling a retail experience. The Healthcare Advisory Board in its 2014 report, “The Coming Retail Revolution: Insurance in Transition, Patients at Risk, and the Redefinition of American Healthcare,” predicts that the projected size of the potential healthcare retail market in 2018 will total 87 million, including 25 million public exchange; 5 million “private option Medicaid expansion (based on the number of lives falling into the “Medicaid expansion gap” in non-expansion states); 40 million on the private exchange; and 17 million on the Medicare Exchange (based on the number of Medicare Advantage enrollees).

As patients put on their consumer hats and purchase services directly, whether buying insurance on the exchange or covering first dollar costs with high deductibles, they are expecting the same level of service they would receive in other consumer-based environments. Consumers want information to make buying decisions. Providing information such as price transparency and quality measures is one way to help tackle rising healthcare costs.

Given this paradigm shift, healthcare organizations also need to evolve —or risk losing customers to competing healthcare providers or insurers offering better quality service, prices, or a perceived higher level of care. Though “Healthcare Consumerism” is relatively new to healthcare, there are principles organizations can adopt from other industries who have recognized consumerism as a discipline for decades.

Implementing a Healthcare Consumerism Strategy

To adapt to this new paradigm, healthcare organizations need to put the consumer in the middle, focus on their mindset and on segmentation, personalization, and channels, and build a consumerism strategy. Healthcare organizations can integrate a consumerism strategy by:

Understanding consumer expectations. Healthcare providers know more about their customers than any retailer.  This means customers expect their providers to deliver a personalized experience, which creates intimacy and trust, leading to loyalty. Organizations can accomplish this through targeted communications based on customer information that already exists within the organizations’ database, tailoring messages so as not to violate HIPAA regulations that prohibit protected health information for marketing purposes.

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