For many clinicians, consumerism is a concept that is not very tangible, so practitioners may not know how to fight something that they cannot see, feel, or touch.
There is no escaping the talk of consumerism in health care. This new approach to health care began several years ago and appears to be here to stay. In fact, a 2020 health care consumer experience study noted that finding, accessing, and paying for health care in the U.S. is so inconvenient that half of the consumers surveyed said they have avoided seeking care altogether.
For many clinicians, consumerism is a concept that is not very tangible. As a result, practitioners may not know how to fight something that they cannot see, feel, or touch. Ultimately, practices will feel the outcomes – a decrease in revenue and a decline in patient retention.
So, what does this mean and how does it affect your practice’s operations? What changes need to be implemented to satisfy patients? We’ve outlined tangible actions that you can take to persevere and, eventually, thrive in a health care landscape that is moving towards patient centricity.
What is Patient Consumerism?
Patient consumerism, also known as health care consumerism, is the practice of patients actively shopping for and vetting their care options prior to selecting a provider. This practice acknowledges the role that patients play as both managers and financers. As patients are now responsible for a larger portion of their own health care costs, a circumstance created by high-deductible health plans and substantial premiums, they want to ensure their health care experience will fit their needs.
How does this affect providers and practices?
To best serve patients, you must create a positive patient experience. A strategy should start with knowing your patient population and what they value, and then working to meet those needs to the greatest extent possible. Patients are, in general, looking for affordability, convenience, and access to care that aligns with their schedule.
5 Shifts to Make in Your Practice to Increase Patient Satisfaction
It can feel intimidating to make changes in your practice in response to patient consumerism, but it is a necessary task to maintain your patient population. Fortunately, it can be broken down into smaller implementations that will all work together to increase patient satisfaction.
1. Utilize a cost estimator
Remember, patients are responsible for a greater share of their health care costs than ever before. Similar to how a consumer will shop around for the best value before purchasing any other good or service, today’s patients need to make wise, value-based decisions regarding their health care. According to NRC Health, 75% of consumers see health care decisions as some of the most expensive and important they make. Therefore, it is important to make your practice pricing available ahead of time. Not only is it better service to your patients to enable them to make financially responsible choices, but it is better for your practice, so that you do not find yourself with outstanding collections that are unlikely to get paid.
2. Offer online scheduling
Convenience is a huge deciding factor for today’s patients, probably second only to cost. Calling a doctor’s office and sitting on hold to make an appointment is a time-consuming task, not just for the patient but also for your practice’s front desk staff. Giving patient’s the opportunity to schedule appointments that fit in with their schedule, while viewing what is available to make the best possible choice, is something that will improve patient satisfaction and free up valuable staff time for more pressing concerns. For example, Henry Schein Medical, through its SolutionsHub, offers Yosi Health, a patient engagement platform that provides self-scheduling and automatic appointment reminders for patients, digital check-in and patient intake, and patient queue management.
3. Adopt digital patient intake
Another traditional doctor’s office experience that today’s patients are looking to eliminate is the long time spent in the waiting room filling out a clipboard full of forms. Traditional patient intake has always been incredibly time-consuming between patients answering detailed medical questions on the spot and front desk staff having to enter that information into an electronic health record (EHR). With digital intake, patients can fill out their intake forms online before they arrive at the office, doing so when it is most convenient for them, and eliminating the long time spent in the waiting room. As a bonus, this saves your staff the data entry work as the information is directly transmitted into the EHR. Your practice should take a holistic approach to improving every digital touchpoint along the patient journey, and deploy solutions such as PatientPop, a platform that helps practitioners promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them.
4. Include telehealth as a service
Remember, convenience is of prime importance to patients. If there is a way for them to see the doctor without disrupting their day, they want it. Telehealth provides a more convenient option. Offering telehealth in your practice is another great way to provide patients with the experience they are seeking. Utilizing a telemedicine solution such as MedPod, which is available in a cloud-based format as well as cart deployments, can help your practice improve relationships with patients looking for convenient access to health care.
5. Implement convenient payment options
Patients want to be able to handle their health care similarly to how they take care of any other business in their lives. Meet patients where they are by instituting online payments or, even better, mobile payment options so that patients can quickly and easily pay their balances. There are many barriers to patients paying their medical bills and financial difficulty is only one of them. By implementing convenient payment options, you can eliminate the other barriers and ensure that you receive more of the payments you are owed. CueSquared MobilePay™ is a platform that augments the collection efforts of patient self-pay balances, allowing patients to access and pay their bills anywhere. A solution like this can help increase patient revenue, accelerate payments, and reduce costs to collect.
The concept of consumerism is somewhat abstract to clinicians who may have a difficult time understanding the tangible repercussions for not meeting a patient’s expectations. Simply put, patients are selecting physicians based on three main factors: cost, convenience, and reputation. This is what defines their consumeristic or shopping behavior.
Practices must commit to changing the look, feel, and operation of their practice. These changes cannot be window dressing, but rather ingrained in the way the practice operates.
If this change is not embraced, consumerism will have real implications as new emerging competitors will disintermediate patients from their traditional care delivery methods. This means that independent clinicians may struggle to attract new patients, and those who do not focus on patient experience will be fighting to keep patients from competitors who operate with more patient-centric models.
There is no doubt that patient consumerism is changing the face of the health care industry, and this is a fantastic opportunity to improve health outcomes by helping patients to become more engaged, while also strengthening your practices’ revenue cycles. All it takes is to determine what it is that patients are looking for and do your best to implement those changes.
Michael Casamassa is the Vice President of Solutions at Henry Schein Medical. He is responsible for building out a comprehensive, meaningful, and relevant portfolio of solutions that empowers practices to improve in three critical areas: clinical, financial, and operational. Henry Schein Medical’s SolutionsHub brings technology and expertise to health care.
Crystal Stanton is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Henry Schein Medical Systems, Inc. The Henry Schein subsidiary provides simple, customizable practice management and 2015 ONC Certified Electronic Medical Records & ePrescribing software under the brand, MicroMD. MicroMD delivers simplicity over other complex EMR’s and customizes each offering, so practices only pay for the industry-leading solutions they need, to maximize outcomes and connect with their patients. MicroMD serves as the foundational technology platform at the core of Henry Schein’s fully integrated service team of consultants who are dedicated to helping independent practices, medical groups, community health centers, revenue cycle management companies and billing services with supplies, equipment, and leveraging technology to thrive. Visit the Henry Schein SolutionsHub to learn more.