By Denise Vance-Rodrigues and Noori Dhillon
Previous generations had simple needs when interacting with the healthcare system. To book an appointment with their primary care physician, they’d pull out their calendar, pick up the phone, and call the office. They’d take whatever appointment was available, pencil it into their calendar, and wait. For after-hours care, they would either call their doctor and wait for a nurse to call back or make an expensive trip to the ER. While this system was straightforward, it was rarely personalized or consumer-centered.
In recent years, the healthcare system has undergone a major evolution to serve consumer’s needs and expectations. Younger generations have grown up with advanced technology and have high expectations from the world in which they live. Simultaneously, older generations have watched the world go digital. As a result, there is a growing expectation that the healthcare system should be easy and accessible.
With the rise of high-deductible health plans, modern consumers now assume more financial risk for their healthcare. As a result, they need tools that empower them to be cost-conscious utilizers of healthcare, which means smart healthcare systems need to adapt to meet these growing needs and expectations if they want to succeed.
Younger Consumers Are Driving Healthcare Innovation
Millennials and Gen Xers account for roughly half the population— and they expect convenient delivery methods and digital touchpoints at every step throughout their healthcare journey. And because different demographics have different needs, healthcare organizations must develop unique approaches that meet their expectations and let them take a more active role in their care.
In November and December of 2016, in collaboration with FORTUNE Knowledge Group, Oliver Wyman — a leading global management consulting firm — conducted an extensive digital survey of 2,016 American healthcare consumers. The survey found nearly half of millennials view healthcare as a consumer good. This means they are more willing to shop around.
Furthermore, the majority of millennials want new healthcare products and services. One study suggests that 60 percent of millennials are interested in telehealth and 71 percent want to manage their preventive care through a mobile app. They are also more likely than baby boomers to want consultations with experienced patient advocates.
Technology Has Changed All Consumers’ Expectations
We’ve become accustomed to a personalized, data-driven consumer experience that is responsive, transparent and accessible. We shop for everything from cars to financial services online — reading reviews and comparing prices. We access order histories with ease, renew services with the click of a button, and text our stockbrokers. Accordingly, modern consumers now expect similar offerings from their healthcare organizations.
Consumers are looking for ways that technology can simplify their health and wellness needs. Provider-centered models of healthcare delivery—where consumers have limited input or access to information — no longer meet their expectations. Instead, they want healthcare on their own terms and tools that give them easy access to care and empower smarter decision-making.
Financial Risk Impacts Consumer Healthcare Decisions
The Oliver Wyman survey also confirmed that cost, especially rising premiums, is a major concern among every age group. There’s a clear trend toward value-based, high-quality care. Of those polled, the top three concerns were related to cost — including rising premiums, care not covered by insurance and prescription prices.
The most recent CDC data reports more than 43 percent of all Americans under the age of 65 have high-deductible health plans. This means they are paying thousands of dollars for their healthcare before their health plan will cover even a portion of their expenses.
In addition to cost, however, many other factors influence consumer choice including convenient access to timely and effective care, cost and communication transparency, and the quality of the healthcare alliance’s physicians and hospitals. These concerns have spawned a more empathetic “patient as person” paradigm in place of the outdated “patient as profit” system. This movement places the member in control of their care and has become the preferred model in the Bay Area, as several networks have implemented a convenient, transparent, and cost-effective member experience — improving outcomes and increasing efficiency.
Healthcare Systems Must Respond to Consumer Demand
Leading healthcare organizations have responded to consumer demand by implementing new tools and technologies, including:
- Accessibility and Integration: When providers work together, patients experience less frustration and receive better care.Modern healthcare organizations utilize advanced systems to facilitate interconnectivity across the myriad touchpoints of the healthcare system.
- Digital Tools: Digital systems facilitate the seamless exchange of information between providers and members through mobile apps, member portals, and expense-tracking tools. Today’s healthcare organizations have started offering digital tools, such as telehealth options, digital ID cards, cost estimators, and other powerful tools that empower consumers to interact with the healthcare system on their own terms. They allow members to choose their care venue, understand their costs, and improve their health outcomes by increasing their health literacy.
- Meeting Consumers Where They Are: Due to increased financial risk, consumers are becoming aware of the importance of preventive care. However, taking control of your health can be daunting. Successful healthcare systems implement population health management strategies that use biometric data to identify at-risk populations and coordinate preventive care based on their unique needs.
These tools empower individuals to take control of their care at key touchpoints and place them in charge of how their care is delivered. Mobile apps and member portals trigger notifications to patients that keep them involved throughout the healthcare continuum, allowing them to interact with the healthcare system on their own. Along with telehealth, these tools and processes create a more transparent, accessible, affordable and involved healthcare experience.
Now, instead of leaving members to figure out their care, treatment and follow-up on their own, modern organizations are supplying them with helpful features throughout their healthcare journey to improve outcomes and prevent potential medical issues. While pricing remains a major concern for most consumers, an improved healthcare experience will likely improve trust between patients and providers, increase consumer engagement and lead to optimal healthcare outcomes.
Denise Vance-Rodrigues is the business development director for Canopy Health.
Noori Dhillon is director of product strategy for BayHealth Development.
Incorporated in March 2015 as an affiliation between UCSF Health and John Muir Health, Canopy Health aims to provide a top-quality continuum of care across the San Francisco Bay Area through partnerships with primary care providers, community hospitals, top-tier academic medical facilities, and medical groups. In addition to its founding members, Canopy Health currently includes four physician groups — Hill Physicians Medical Group, John Muir Health Physician Network, Meritage Medical Network, and Santa Clara County IPA. Canopy Health also includes 18 participating medical centers across 8 Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.